One of my other interests is sports, and as a kid growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, I was and continue to be a big fan of the Atlanta Braves. The first baseball game I went to was a Braves game when they were still the Milwaukee Braves. I attended the game with my Dad, Grandfather and Brother and still remember the little plastic Braves belt my Dad bought me. When the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, they also moved their AAA team to Richmond, Virginia. One of the neat features of the major league all star game weekend was that the Braves’ major and AAA teams would play an exhibition game. When I was in high school I went with a friend to the game in the Richmond Braves Stadium and just in case brought a baseball and came early. Much to our delight, the security for the exhibition game was a little lacking and we able to go in early and get autographs of many of the star players. I have two balls from these games, one from 1972 and one from 1974. Hank Aaron’s signature is on both balls and it is significant to note that 1974 was the year he broke Babe Ruth home run record. It is also his last year in Atlanta before going back to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers for the last two seasons of his career. Some of the the other autographs we got were Dusty Baker, Ralph Garr, Darrell Evans and Phil Neikro.
It is not surprising that in these uncertain times there seems to be a lack of leaders that we can look up to. There is a new book: The Last Hero, A Life of Henry Aaron published in 2010. Hank Aaron was one of my childhood heroes. He can be admired not only for what he accomplished on the baseball diamond but off it as well. His leadership by example is unmatched not only in baseball terms and the advancement of civil rights but also as the role model he is for young people of all races. His quiet dignity should be an inspiration to us all.
1972 Atlanta Braves
Left: Ralph Garr and Jim Hardin
Middle: Rico Carty, Dusty Baker, Ron Reed and Pat Jarvis
Right: Hank Aaron
1974 Atlanta Braves
Left: Buzz Capra, Roric Harrison, Lew Krausse and Carl Morton
Middle: Johnny Oates and Hank Aaron
Right: Dusty Baker, Tom House and Phil Niekro