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Chipper Jones sits at his locker, shoulders slumped, deep creases under his eyes, looking up wistfully. He's wearing a Braves T-shirt, compression shorts, knee socks, and slip-ons. At that moment, he doesn't look like one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. In a state of half-dress, still in good shape but with a weathered face that betrays his age, he looks like the best player on a 35-and-older fast-pitch softball team.

"You hate to cheat the fans from being able to watch a guy like that pitch, especially in his final years," he says, discussing the knee injury Mariano Rivera just suffered. "Nobody wants everybody's last image of you to be getting carted off or carried off the field."

He's talking about baseball mortality. Rivera's, sure. But mostly his own. Chipper turned 40 on April 24 and his own knees are failing him, and it's eating him up inside. Two years ago, Chipper blew out his left ACL. Now, his knees punish him. They prompted surgery in spring training. Made him miss the first four games of the season. They blow up on plane rides. After two or three games in a row, they give him agony, to the point where some mornings he can barely walk.

Who thinks the Cubs showed special class today when they gave Chipper the Braves flag that had flown over Wrigley Field in tribute to his long and tenured career...
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