Homer helps Chipper celebrate 40th with bang

Homer helps Chipper celebrate 40th with bang

LOS ANGELES -- Chipper Jones made his final birthday game a memorable one and extended his recent trend of hitting a home run every time he returns to the Braves' lineup for a special day.

With his bothersome left knee improving enough on Tuesday, Jones added to the memories of his 40th birthday with a fifth-inning home run that helped the Braves claim a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. The long solo shot off Aaron Harang was the fifth birthday home run in the veteran third baseman's career and it made him just the fifth player in Major League history to hit a home run on his 40th birthday.

"You always want to do something special on your birthday and it doesn't get any more special than that," said Jones, who ended up batting .429 (21-for-49) with five home runs in his career on his birthday.

Adding to the significance of this home run was the fact that it was hit at Dodger Stadium. The third baseman grew up in Pierson, Fla., religiously following the Dodgers. 

"Maybe we can trick him again tomorrow into thinking it's his birthday," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He stands up to those occasions."

As Jones nears his retirement at the end of this season, he is showing the knack for doing something special in big games. Two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee, he made his regular-season debut in Houston on April 10 and homered in just his second at-bat.

Five days later after his left knee had forced him to miss the first two scheduled home games of the year, he celebrated his personal home opener with another home run. Now his third home run of the season was hit on his 40th birthday.

"All three of the homers I have hit this year have been really cool," Jones said. "I hit my first one in Houston with my parents in the stands. My second one was my home opener and then this one was on my birthday."

Jones awoke around 8:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday and found approximately 30 birthday wishes on his cell phone. After going back to sleep for another couple hours, he found about 30 more messages from friends and family members wishing him a happy birthday.

"I've got a ton of friends out there, both inside and outside the game that thought enough to say happy birthday," Jones said. "It was really appreciated. I can't wait to get home. I got a message from my four boys this morning. I miss them. Hopefully we won't get rained out [on Wednesday] because my wife has a rather elaborate birthday party planned for Thursday."

Jones also awoke with the satisfaction that his surgically repaired left knee had improved enough to allow him to return to the lineup for the first time since Saturday.

When asked how his knee was feeling, Jones said. ""Better, it felt 40, instead of about 55, which is good because it's an improvement from yesterday."