ATLANTA – Bobby Cox reached behind his sunglasses to dab his eyes a few times on Saturday as the Atlanta Braves paid tribute to their longtime manager.
The ceremony before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies attracted about 70 former players and coaches, who all wore their white Braves jerseys and sat in the infield.
Cox was given a 2010 Lexus LS460 from the Braves and an 11-night cruise from his current players. Cox said "Holy Cow!" when shown a picture of another gift — a bench made with autographed bats, balls and baseball cards from every player on the team.
Chipper Jones, representing the current players, called Cox "the greatest manager any of us will know."
Cox was the general manager when the Braves made Jones the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft. Cox is the only manager Jones has played for in his 16 major league seasons.
The 60-year-old Cox is retiring after the season, his 29th as a major league manager, including 25 with the Braves. The Braves began the day with a lead in the NL wild-card race.
The manager appeared moved when Jones said, "I want to personally thank you for taking a chance on me. I've been trying to make you proud for 20 years."
Former players, including Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro, Gary Sheffield, Andres Galarraga and David Justice, gave Cox a standing ovation. They remained standing as Cox thanked the fans, his wife, Pam, and his family.
Cox tipped his cap to the fans and said "These last three decades have just been magnificent."
Cox said his players deserved credit for the wins.
"The main reasons is these guys right here," Cox said, looking at his players. "They're great players. They're my friends."
Before the ceremony, Cox said, "It feels like my whole career has flown by. It's nothing but a blur right now."
Phillies players applauded and stood on the edge of their dugout during the ceremony. There were a few boos when Cox congratulated manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies for winning the NL East division.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and former Braves owner Ted Turner offered congratulations to Cox in taped messages that were played on the video board. Selig said he would see Cox in Cooperstown in a few years when the manager is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Selig said Cox has been "not only a great manager on the field but a great person off the field."
Cox managed for Turner's Braves from 1978-81 before four years as Toronto's manager.
Turner chided himself for firing Cox in 1981.
"Looking back on all you've accomplished, it's hard to believe I actually let you go, the greatest manager in baseball history," Turner said. "Luckily for us you came back."
Cox's second stint as manager began in 1990, when stepped down as general manager to move back to the dugout. The Braves' run of 14 straight division titles began in 1991 and included the 1995 World Series title.
"Just look at those pennants out there," said Braves president John Schuerholz, pointing to the Turner Field facade. "Bobby did that for us."
Cox ranks fourth all-time with 2,503 wins, trailing Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony La Russa. He will remain with the team as a consultant.
Galarraga said it won't be easy for Cox to leave the game that has been his life for 50 years as a player and manager.
"That will be hard," Galarraga said. "You don't want to retire from this game. You want to be forever."
He said it will be easier for Cox if the Braves make the playoffs.
Some Braves players were in awe of the former players who visited the clubhouse.
J.C. Boscan, a 30-year-old rookie catcher who appeared in his first major league game on Friday night, had bench coach Chino Cadahia introduce him to Maddux. Maddux said he was delighted to honor Boscan's request to sign a baseball.