loading

  About 4 minutes reading time.

50 years after Hank Aaron’s 715th homer, Hall of Fame announces statue, Postal Service unveils stamp

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 8th, 2024 12:30pm EDT

ATLANTA (AP) — The 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run was marked Monday with announcements of a new statue at Baseball’s Hall of Fame and a new commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

Meanwhile, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred helped honor Aaron in Atlanta by joining the Braves in announcing the $100,000 endowment of a scholarship at Tuskegee University, a historically Black university in Aaron’s home state of Alabama.

Manfred noted the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, launched by the Braves following Aaron’s death in 2021, and the Chasing the Dream Foundation, created by Aaron and wife Billye, were designed to clear paths for minorities in baseball and to encourage educational opportunities.

“I got to know Hank later in his life and he had that amazing presence that the great ones usually have, and he was undoubtedly a force for change in our society,” Manfred said at the Atlanta History Center, where a new exhibit honoring Aaron was unveiled.

“I’m sure that commitment to improving the life of others was in part a product of what he went through as a player. Hank’s legacy goes way beyond baseball.”

The exhibit will remain open through the 2025 All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Billye Aaron attended the unveiling of the exhibit and spoke in a video about Aaron’s record-breaking homer in 1974. She said while watching from her seat near the field, she was upset to see two 17-year-old fans, Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay, run onto the diamond and join Aaron as he ran around the bases.

“It just made me angry,” Billye Aaron said, adding she thought the young fans were “stealing his thunder” but noted her husband was not upset.

“If I had been Henry running around the bases, I would have given them more than an elbow,” she said.

Another fan, Charlie Russo, told The Associated Press he followed Aaron’s family onto the field and for the first time he made available a video reproduction of the 8mm film he shot that night.

Manfred said much has changed in the last 50 years, including security. “I think we’re better than letting fans onto the field,” he said.

Aaron’s 715th home run topped the record 714 hit by Babe Ruth in a career from 1914-35. Aaron hit 755 home runs from 1954-76, a mark that stood until Barry Bonds hit 762 from 1986-2007, a feat assisted by performance-enhancing drugs.

Baseball’s Hall of Fame will unveil a bronze statue of Hank Aaron on May 23 on the first floor of its museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Aaron was elected to the hall in 1982. A 25-time All-Star, he set a record with 2,297 RBIs. He continues to hold the records of 1,477 extra-base hits and 6,856 total bases.

“The legacy of Hank Aaron has always been about so much more than just his incredible baseball achievements,” Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement. “His philanthropic vision, his support of youth empowerment efforts and his pioneering work as an executive have opened the doors of opportunity for millions throughout the United States and around the world. We are extremely privileged to care for and preserve his entire personal collection in Cooperstown, and this statue will stand forever as a tribute to an American hero.”

The Postal Service announced it will release a stamp picturing Aaron in his batting stance wearing his Atlanta Braves uniform. The date of issue and dedication ceremony will be announced later.

Among Aaron’s teammates from the 1974 Braves team who attended the event at the Atlanta History Center were Dusty Baker, who was on deck when Aaron hit the homer off Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Al Downing, and Tom House, the reliever who caught the ball in the bullpen.

Baker retired as Houston’s manager following the 2023 season.

The Hank Aaron Invitational is designed to encourage high school players from diverse backgrounds to play at higher levels. Alumni of the Hank Aaron Invitational include Cincinnati pitcher Hunter Greene, who participated in 2015, and Braves outfielder Michael Harris II, who played in 2018.

Baker referred to Aaron as a father figure who looked out for him as he began his playing career with the Braves. Baker and other teammates, including Ralph Garr, tried to protect Aaron as he received racist mail and threats during the home run chase.

“It makes me proud to see how many people he helped, not only on the field but off,” Baker said Monday.

Added Garr: “He told me all the time, ‘I don’t want anybody to forget Babe Ruth or forget me either.’”

___

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb