Even though the World Series returned to Georgia on Friday night, nine months and one week after Hank Aaron’s death, his presence was still palpable.
Truist Park’s centre field grass bore his No. 44 in tribute. When Hank Jr. threw out the first pitch to current franchise icon Freddie Freeman, he was joined on the mound by his wife of 48 years, Billye Aaron, and their four children.
And Dusty Baker, caught up in the excitement, made a fool of himself.
Tribute To Hank Aaron a Touching Moment For Dusty Baker
Baker, a former teammate of Aaron’s and now the manager of the Houston Astros, stepped on the top step of the Astros dugout and gave a thumbs up and a pointed finger to Billye in the on-deck circle and the four kids on the mound.
Then, after pretending to make a pitching change, he jogged out onto the field and crossed the baseline to give hugs to Aaron’s kids.
A two-minute video tribute to the man who hit 755 home runs was shown to the sold-out crowd here and a nationwide television audience. Robinson became something of a civil-rights legend in 1974 when, despite receiving death threats, he hit his 715th home run at Fulton County Stadium, passing Babe Ruth in the process.
Tell Her How Much I Mourned Hank’s Absence.
Freeman noted before Game 3 that “that man loved all of us.” Anyone who interacted with him could not help but sense the unconditional affection he exuded. My only hope is that he could be here to see this. The very thought of that makes me shiver.
From Milwaukee to Atlanta and back to Milwaukee for his final two seasons, Aaron played 21 seasons for the Braves. The 25-time All-Star is third all-time in hits, first in runs batted in (2,297), and second in total bases (6,856) in baseball history (3,771).
When the Braves last played in the World Series, in 1999, he was front and centre when Major League Baseball introduced its All-Century team at Turner Field before Game 2. A bigger ovation was given to Pete Rose, who had been banned from baseball for gambling on the game but was awarded a temporary reinstatement by commissioner Bud Selig, than Aaron had received the night before.
Snitker referred to him as a “very, really good friend” on Friday. He was a reliable friend who was always there for me when I needed help. Even as a young manager, I recall when he’d call and the first thing he’d ask was, “How’s the family doing?” Do you need anything else? After every offseason visit, he would say, “You let me know if I can ever do anything for you.”
On the evening of April 8, 1974, when Aaron hit a home run to surpass Ruth’s mark and Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully proclaimed that “a Black guy is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for surpassing the record of an all-time baseball icon,” Baker awaited his turn at bat.