Apr 1, 2019

Baseball's Hank Aaron

 “Play ball” is the call of the season but it is also a good time to learn more about the history of baseball and its players. Of course you can always attend a ball game and visit Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame but there are other interesting things for baseball aficionados to do. 

Did you know that Syracuse has its own Baseball Wall of Fame? It was established in 1998 in conjunction with the 140th anniversary of the first organized baseball team in Syracuse, New York. It is located at NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Mets Triple-A baseball team.

I like it when I can learn about the life and struggles of people who
became successful. When John and I were in Mobile, Alabama we visited the home of Hank Aaron which is now next to the Hank Aaron Stadium. It is a place to relive Aaron's early life and baseball career.

I would have loved to have met Hank’s mother, Estella, who died in 2008 at the age of 96.  When a scout first approached the Aarons requesting that Hank play in a local league his mom refused.  He was still in school. 
She finally relented but laid down the law: no night games when there was school the next day and no skipping school to play. Later when he went to play in the Negro League for the Indianapolis Clowns his mom insisted his older brother and sister go along to take care of him.  When Hank Aaron had enough money he bought his mom a new home on the water as a surprise.  The conversation went something like this. “Hank, what is this?” “Mom, it’s your new house.” “I’m not moving.  I like my
house and it is where all my friends are.”  And, of course, she didn’t move and lived in the house until she died.  I have a lot of respect for a mom like that. Hank had a large family room added to the house.  After she died Hank donated the house and it was moved to a place of honor next to the stadium.  The seven-room museum showcases the inspiring life and historic baseball career of Hank Aaron.

Aaron is best remembered for breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs with his 715th on April 8, 1974.  Not all the stories are so wonderful.  When it was obvious that Babe Ruth’s record was about to be broken Aaron received many death threats and hate mail because some people did not want to see a black man break Ruth’s record.  The docent told us, “Most of the threats came from the North.” Interesting!

Aaron played 23 years as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves. His record of 755 career home runs was the most of any other baseball player and a record that stood for more than two decades until it was broken by Barry Bonds.  After Bonds hit his record-breaking 756th home run on August 7, 2007, Aaron made a surprise appearance on the huge video screen at the ball park in San Francisco to congratulate Bonds on his accomplishment.  The museum has a plethora of memorabilia but I love the personal stories. 

Aaron was held in high regard by all those who played ball with
him. Aaron is quoted as saying, upon being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, “I have had great things happen to me, but today is the greatest day I have ever had in my entire life."