Beyond Chipper Jones' poor game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League wild-card game on Friday, the umpires who botched a call late in the contest will undoubtedly be blamed for sending the historic third baseman into retirement on a down note.
But what the fans in Atlanta did on Friday was uglier.
In the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday, Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma—in apparent miscommunication with left fielder Matt Holliday—let a pop fly drop in shallow left field. The Braves had men on first and second with one out, and the infield fly rule was called, despite the ball falling in the outfield.
Of course, the rule allowed for the umpires to have a little wiggle room in this instance, as Jayson Starks of ESPN noted:
Rule says rule IF fly rule applies to ball that "could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder." Doesn't matter if it lands on OF grass— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 5, 2012
But, poor call or not, what Braves fans did after that was disgusting. Even more, they unconsciously did exactly what the well-respected Chipper Jones would never condone—or fathom.
As soon as the call was clear on Friday, fans began chucking beer bottles and trash onto the field, putting players in harm's way in the process. I don't care if you're a Braves fan, Cardinals fan or Little League Baseball fan, that can never be allowed in the game, and it's far more deplorable than the umpires' ruling on Friday (as deplorable as that ruling was).
What Braves fans should have realized on Friday was that they were essentially throwing trash on the game Jones loved and basically littering a field he called home.
Let me put it this way: When the time comes for you to be seen out of your workplace, would you like it if your coworkers started throwing garbage at you? Or trashed your office?
It was painful to watch the umpires' ruling in the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday, but the image that will always be stuck in our heads—and Chipper's—is the overwhelming amount of trash that cascaded down from the bleachers and made a mockery of "America's Pastime."
Jones—an eight-time All-Star, World Series champion and MVP—was forced to trudge off the field in his last career game with the integrity of the sport he loved for so many years in shambles.