Saturday, July 09, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Hank Aaron at The Ted

Hank Aaron at The Ted (01)

Major League Baseball will play its annual All-Star Game this coming Tuesday, 12 July, in San Diego, California.

Nearly two thousand miles east, in Atlanta, Georgia, a statue stands majestically in the north courtyard of baseball park Turner Field. The bronze sculpture commemorates the moment on 8 April 1974 in which baseball All-Star Henry (Hank) Aaron hammered his 715th home run —breaking the long-held, long-thought-unbreakable record of Babe Ruth.

Aaron, playing in the 'Deep South' of the time, chasing and eventually eclipsing a hallowed record of a beloved player, had a career that encompassed the nobility of athletic prowess and the ugly obstruction of racism. When he retired in 1976, Aaron had played for the Atlanta Braves (originally the Milwaukee Braves) for twenty-one years of his twenty-three-year career. He would hit a total of 755 home runs, a record that would stand until 2007, when it was broken by Barry Bonds (a feat tainted by steroid use).

Aaron still holds the major league records of 2,297 RBIs and of total bases, 6,856. He was selected for the All-Star team every year from 1955 through 1975; he won three Gold Glove awards; he was selected the National League MVP in 1957 while leading the Braves to a World Series championship. In 1982, Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 97.83% of the vote. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked him as the fifth greatest baseball player ever; ESPN selected him as the fifteenth greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

Hank Aaron at The Ted (03)

Aaron's statue was paid for by his fans, sculpted in 1982 by a then relatively unknown Colorado-based artist, Ed Dwight, and erected at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then home field for the Atlanta Braves. In 1996, Turner Field, colloquially known as "The Ted," was built for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, just across the way. The following year, the Braves moved in. And the statue followed.

Sadly though, at the conclusion of this 2016 baseball season, the team will abandon the ballpark, moving twenty miles from the city. The Braves have commissioned a new sculpture for the new digs.

Hank Aaron, however, is not leaving; his statue will remain standing, bigger-than-life, in Atlanta at Turner Field.
Aaron was the physical embodiment of a generation of African-American major leaguers and best exemplified the potential for accomplishment that could be realized when presented with opportunity. Like [Babe] Ruth's magnetic personality, Aaron's new legacy extended beyond the arena of the playing field. Aaron's accomplishments made a case for what baseball and America could be. [...] "Aaron," said former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson, "was a man big enough for the job."
— Charlie Vascellaro: Hank Aaron: A Biography. (2005).


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