Henry “Hank” Aaron, the Legendary, Baseball Hall of Famer, Record Breaker of Babe Ruth Homerun Record, received numerous of death threats to prevent breaking a white man’s record went to the “Diamond in the Sky” on January 22, 2021 at age 86 by way of Atlanta, Georgia leaving his family and the world in mourning. He was a huge Humanitarians, Philanthropists and Recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 by President George W. Bush.
Henry had a humble beginning in Mobile “Down The Bay”, Alabama born to Herbert and Estella Aaron on February 5, 1934. He was fascinated with making a bat and ball with material that he would find lying around. One day he mentioned to his father that he wanted to be a baseball player when he grows up, but his father replied, “there ain’t no colored baseball players”.
All that changed the day Jackie Robinson, the legendary historical baseball player who broke the color barrier line, came to Hank’s hometown to play a baseball game. Hank didn’t have any money to purchase a ticket to go see the man he admired deeply. Therefore, Hank climbed a tree to watch his hero. This is when the future legend began “Chasing The Dream” at the early age of 14. He later established this name for his charity foundation to help underprivileged youth get an education.
Hank Aaron professional baseball career was from 1951 – 1976 (age 17 – 42). While in the Negro League for 6 years, he became the MVP in the World Championship Series in 1957, etc. At age 23, he entered the Major League Baseball (MLB), the same league that his inspirational hero, Jackie Robinson (passed away 1972) broke the color barrier and now he has paved it for Hank and others. While in this league, Hank received numerous awards including becoming a 25 x All-Star, retiring of his Atlanta Braves #44 and Milwaukee Brewers #44 jerseys and many more awards.
The world came to know him as a Baseball Trailblazer while others knew him as a spiritual, humble, fair, nice, classy, businessman, etc. When he became the owner of Hank Aaron BMW car dealership, he made sure he hired a diverse group of people to represent him and his business. And for incentive to his customers who bought cars, he gave each one of them an autographed baseball card.
He was a true Civil Rights Activist who remained fair and made sure everyone was treated with respect and dignity despite the many years of hearing racial slurs, being discriminated against, receiving hate mail, death threats, being turned away at restaurants, etc.
The Honorable Former Atlanta Mayor/Ambassador Andrew Young, a close friend said, “Hank Aaron made a huge contribution to the successful desegregation of Atlanta”.
Former President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) who spoke at Aaron’s funeral said, Hank chased many dreams and chased many more after he retired from baseball, designing to help so many others. Clinton felt Hank’s entire life was truly one long home run.
Here in Atlanta and around the world, many people had great stories to share about this legend and the many places he visited. My best friend Jeanine Jackson and I visited the site where Mr. Hank made his historic 715TH (755 Career Total) Home Run at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974.
Since then, a new stadium was built, Turner Field, named after Ted Turner, the owner of the Atlanta Braves but the architects saved the historic spot where Mr. Aarons’ historic home run was hit. Ironically, the site is in a parking lot but in front of where the 1996 Olympic Torch is located which makes it even more beautiful.
One lady that was at this site said, “I was actually here on the season home opener against the Brooklyn Dodger the day he hit that home run!! The days leading up to that special day, many white people had threatened Aaron and wanted to kidnap his family if he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record”.
Hank was known not to be fearful and that day he said it was a calmness that came over him when he hit that ball and ran around those bases at age 40. Even though he and his family were threatened by some of the white race, he broke the record and it was white guys who joyfully and excitedly congratulated him in his moment of glory running around the bases as well as white fans in the stands cheering. Aaron felt this was meant to change history.
Another beautiful thing is that his parents were there to hug him and witness their son proving to them emotionally, YES, THERE ARE BLACK BASEBALL PLAYERS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUE!!!!
The next stop for Jeanine and me was to head 15 miles north of Atlanta to the new baseball stadium known as Truist Park (formally SunTrust Park for a year). We saw a billboard of Mr. Aaron outside then we knew we were at the new Atlanta Brave Headquarters.
Therefore, his spirit will always be at the new and old stadiums. We wanted to go inside to see the huge Hank Aaron’s Bronze Statue but the waiting line was extremely long so we had to leave. I was impressed when we walked around on the outside and the gates were called “1st Base Gate”, etc.
As our day came to an end, my best friend I kept reflecting on what a great man Mr. Aaron was. Jeanine felt extra special because she had the privilege of eating at his Club 755 Restaurant in Turner Field and he was there interacting and being the nice, humble guy that she remembered. Thank you, Mr. Hank Aaron, for standing up for something you believed in and used your God Given Gifts to bond all races together for the good. You now have reached that special, “Diamond In The Sky!!!”
Thank you to Mrs. Billye Aaron and family for sharing Mr. Hank Aaron with us. Mr. Aaron has been laid to rest at South-View Cemetery, the same resting place as his friend the late Congressman John Lewis and others.