SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Baseball and the nation lost a legend Friday. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron died at the age of 86.
There are sports stars and then there are giants that transcend sports. Aaron was the latter.
Before he was in the Hall, Hammerin’ Hank was a 19-year-old second baseman who took the field at Historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah for the Jacksonville Braves.
“There are so many people that have been in this stadium, but on these grounds, all the way back from the 1920′s, and to think someone like that- Hank Aaron - would have played here as a 19-year-old in the 50′s when this place had just been remodeled, it’s just remarkable. That’s why when you walk in this place, you can kind of feel these bricks and this place like breath that life,” Savannah Bananas President Jared Orton said.
Aaron hit one over the fences at Grayson. Through the 70′s and 80′s he would return, as his brother, Tommie, managed the then Savannah Braves.
John Carswell remembers seeing a young Aaron take the field at Grayson.
“Hank Aaron had the fastest swing of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Carswell said.
From there, Carswell said Aaron became his favorite player. Even being stationed in Germany during World War II didn’t stop him from following Aaron’s career.
“The first thing I did when I was overseas in the service, was each time I could get a Red and White paper, was to see how Hank Aaron had done. I have nothing but the highest regard for him as an individual, and also a baseball player. One of my absolute favorites,” Carswell said.
As beloved as he was, Aaron received more than his share of racism and hate. But through it all, another Braves great, Chipper Jones, said it best, Aaron was the “epitome of class and integrity.”
The Atlanta Braves have opened Truist Park so fans can visit Aaron’s statue inside the monument garden Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.