Hank Aaron is gone.
Now if you're younger you may not even know who he is but if you're my age you definitely know. Hank was a Hall of Famer and broke Babe Ruth's all time home run record. Again if you're younger you might have no idea how big a deal that was.
A very big deal.
That picture was from the front page of the Atlanta paper and it was taken in the Fulton County Stadium stands after my show on CBS. The Atlanta Braves were going to the World Series for the first time. Oh, the Braves had been there before but that was when they were the Milwaukee Braves.
Big deal in Atlanta. Huge.
There's a story behind this pic. I'm there with two Hall of Famers, Willie Stargell is the other one. If you know your baseball you know that Willie played his whole career with Pittsburgh and for the life of me I can't remember why he was there.
I was excited to meet both of them.
You see Hammerin' Hank as he was known was this beacon of light for us Black people. Not only was he great but the home runs he hit kept growing in numbers and my pride in him got bigger and bigger. He never hit 50 but he hit 40 or more 8 times.
Think about that for a second.
No steroids, no weak pitching, and now add the racist taunts he heard all the time as he was playing and tough is a good word. They say that in his final chase to break Ruth's record he got more mail than anyone in baseball and most of those letters were from people who didn't want him to do that. That didn't stop him, he kept going.
Think about that too.
A bit of history. Hank saw Jackie Robinson when he was young and that changed his life. Before Jackie Major League Baseball was all White. You didn't see brown faces like you see all the time today. You could aspire to play in the Negro Leagues but that was pretty much it. Jackie showed there was a new path and Hank took it. He went on to greatness and I followed everything he did. And through it all Hank was this quiet, caring, decent man.
Back to that picture.
I was glad to meet Willie but I was really glad to meet Henry Aaron and gush all over him. To tell him how important he was to me and how great a player, how great a person I thought he was. You know how people say something brings them back to when they were a kid? That was me. And as you can see I got him to sign a baseball.
It's one of my prized possessions.
The Atlanta Braves didn't win that World Series but I didn't care. In my mind I got to do the most important thing.
I met Henry Aaron.
And the news of him passing was a shock to me. I don't know how else to put it. I always say I'm old because I am but that information brought me back to when I was ten and when I first discovered baseball.