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RIP Hank Aaron

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    RIP Hank Aaron

    When I was a little boy, I was a baseball fanatic. Every year for many years Mom, who used to work for a grain elevator, received four free box seats because the company she worked for would give them to farmers as a premium for doing business with them. The best we ever got was behind third base, four rows up from the field. Living in southern Illinois it was destined that I would be a St. Louis Cardinals fan. I first saw the Cardinals in person in either 1970 or 1971 when my aunt and uncle took Mom, me, my brother, and a cousin to St. Louis. We stayed at a Holiday Inn and one thing I learned was that when you took a shower you put the curtain in the tub instead of keeping it outside the tub. Hey, we didn't have a shower until probably 1975 or 1976 when Mom remodeled the one bathroom the five of us shared, so what did I know from showers?

    I watched Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Joe Torre, and numerous other players, but the one I always wanted to see was Hank Aaron. Of course, we never got to go when the Braves were playing. The biggest deal for me came when Aaron was going after Babe Ruth's home run record. When you talk about buying fabric, no one had anything on me when it came to buying baseball cards. Topps cards were a dime a pack for about ten or 12 cards (and a piece of gum), so a dollar and some change would buy ten packs. I had amassed about 1,500 cards. At the time, I had no idea about taking care of them making sure they were never touched or even taken out of the package. My next door neighbor and I would get together on Saturday afternoons, separate our cards into teams, and trade (anyone who watched "The Wonder Years" will remember an episode that saw Kevin Arnold and Paul Pfeiffer trading cards that reminded me of me and my neighbor).

    When Aaron was chasing Ruth's record, Topps put out what they called a "Hank Aaron Special," which was one card with four pictures on them representing cards throughout his career. It became my mission in life to collect everyone I could. Here is what they looked like

    71K-4Gq6oML._AC_SY445_.jpg
    Today you can find these cards on Ebay for about $2 to $3, which isn't too bad a price. I don't know if I was able to get every one, but I did get several (and, of course, many of the same card). I even wrote to the Atlanta Braves begging for an autographed picture of Aaron. I'll never forget the day when I got off the school bus, opened the mail box, and saw an envelope with the Braves' logo on it. Of course, the picture I got was stamped with Aaron's signature, but I put it up like it was the most valuable picture in the world. I carried it with me to college and to my first apartment where somehow it got lost. The greatest night, however, was April 8, 1974 when Aaron finally did it. We had attended a 4-H meeting that evening, but my mind was on whether or not it would happen. As we drove home from the meeting, the radio station broke into the music with the news that he had done it. I watched the news that night to be able to watch it.

    Years later I stopped following baseball. I hated the fact that players were charging for their autographs and that much of the fun I remember as a kid seemed to drain away. Baseball cards went from a dime a pack to about $1 a pack with less cards and smaller gum. I still had enough interest in the sport that when I first worked as a reporter a woman I wrote a feature on who had a small general store and had a full pack of cards (every card that Topps put out for that season) that I had always wanted to own but could never afford. Either she took pity on me or I wrote a pretty darn good story because when I stopped by to bring her some copies of the paper, she went to the shelf, pulled down the box, and handed it to me. When I said I didn't have any money she said "this is a gift." I ended up giving that box, plus all the cards I had left, to one of my nephews. I hope he still has them, but I doubt it.

    What killed my love for baseball for all eternity was covering Pete Rose's stay in prison for tax evasion. Rose was supposed to go to the prison in Ashland, Ky., to serve his sentence, but something kept him from doing so. Federal prison officials try to place inmates as close to their home as possible, so family can easily visit. The closest prison after that was in Marion, Illinois, where I was working for the newspaper. I was there the cold, icy day in January when Rose was released. I did some freelancing for other papers and the wire services. The National Enquirer offered me $5,000 if I would get a picture of Rose in prison, which I declined, noting that once they left town I would still have to work with prison officials. They got their picture, but it never came from me. I broke the story that Rose was receiving preferential treatment from the guards and that his ID card had been stolen, which made national news and got me mentioned on the CBS Evening News. It also got me a warning from the nice ladies who worked in the office that if I was going to break a national story I had better have the good sense not to take the next day off when all the media outlets called wanting more information. What was really kind of neat in a "feed my ego" kind of way was that I had gone to a family member's house that next weekend that was a couple of hundred miles away when my cousin told the group that I was covering Rose's stay in prison. Not knowing it was me who broke the story, they asked if I had heard about it, and was it true? I just smiled.

    I did have a picture in the Enquirer that they purchased for about $100. It was inside the dormitory where Rose was staying that I had taken month's before as a file photo. I was so embarrassed that I had a photo credit in it that I made Mom buy a copy for me. I never really cared for Rose as a player or as a person, but when I heard that he had actually bet on games where his team was playing, that pretty much killed any love I had for the sport. I haven't been to a game in years and doubt I could even afford it if and when games begin to allow crowds again.

    But with the loss of Aaron, and the deaths last year of Gibson and Brock, a part of my childhood also died. I guess that's the way it goes for everyone, but it's not the thing that a wide-eyed boy of 11 thinks about happening. All I cared about was the smell of the hot dogs and the crack of the bat and dreaming about seeing Aaron in person. Those are the things that childhood fantasies are made of.

    Rob
    Last edited by Rob the HOAQ; January 23, 2021, 06:01 PM.
    There's nothing more directly linked to who we are than the fabric that we make.
    --Ken Burns

    #2
    I loved reading this, Rob. I had no brothers, so baseball cards weren’t a part of my childhood.

    I once had a secretary named Debbie whose husband was a driver for UPS. They were a young married couple just starting out. Debbie’s husband lost his job and he had a bit of trouble finding another job as good as the one he lost. One weekend he decided to clean out the garage and happened to run across his childhood collection of baseball cards. He took his cards to a dealer to see if they had any value before he gave them away or trashed them. He was astonished to find that his collection was worth several thousand dollars. He had lost his interest in the collection and sold them. They were able to live on the proceeds very comfortably for quite some time!
    sigpicwww.whisperofrose.blogspot.com


    Scottie Mom Barb

    Comment


    • Rob the HOAQ
      Rob the HOAQ commented
      Editing a comment
      That's really fascinating Barb. I worked with a guy who was a big Pittsburgh Pirates fan. He collected all kinds of baseball memorabilia. He and his wife moved to Colorado after he lost his job. He had put all of his collection plus many other household items in a storage facility. He went there one day to look for something and found that every piece of memorabilia had been stolen. What's even worse is the thief or thieves knew what they were looking for because nothing else (including his wife's jewelry) had been taken.

      Rob

    #3
    Great baseball story Rob! I actually saw Hank Aaron play once! Remember he was with the Milwaukee Braves before they went to Atlanta and I am from Milw. Was never a fan of Pete Rose either, he always seemed incredibly arrogant to me so I was kind of glad he got what he deserved. I was a Robin Yount groupie (most people probably don't even know who that is). Me and a bunch of my GFs went to a baseball game once and after the game we found his car in the parking lot (red camaro with vanity plate Yount 19) Somebody had red lipstick in her purse so we all applied fresh coats and left kissy marks on all the windows and stuffed love notes with our phone numbers under the windshield wipers. Oh the things we did in our 20's!
    Last edited by jjkaiser; January 24, 2021, 12:23 AM.

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    • Rob the HOAQ
      Rob the HOAQ commented
      Editing a comment
      I am jealous Jocelyn. Aaron came to a nearby town once for an event, but I had to work so I wasn't able to go. I have another Pete Rose story. My sister, her ex-husband (not then; they were still married) and another couple went to see the Cardinals play the Reds. They had really good seats. Rose came to bat, popped off foul ball and hit my sister a glancing blow across the face. When Rose was in prison a Chicago radio sports talk show host had me on his program. He asked me if had been able to get near Rose to talk with him, Of course, prison officials wouldn't allow that. He asked me what I might say to him. "I would thank him for hitting my sister in the face with a foul ball," I jokingly replied.

      One more story and then I'll stop. I told the radio guy that the Marion city council was lobbying to rename the road that led to the federal prison "Ray Fosse Drive" so when Rose arrived, he could slide in on Ray Fosse Drive. Here is a link that explains that to those who don't get it.

      https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/...-century-later

      By the way, Marion was Fosse's home town.

      Rob

    #4
    Rob, that is a wonderful story; thank you for sharing it with us. I had heard that when Roger Maris was chasing Babe Ruth's record for most home runs in a single season, the stress he endured was so great that his hair began to fall out. I can only imagine how much worse it must have been for Hank Aaron as an African American playing in the South. Yet he handled it, including death threats, with so much class.

    Barb, how wonderful that those baseball cards helped Debbie and her husband out financially at a time when they needed it. I didn't collect them as a kid, but I remember that many of the boys in the neighborhood did. They would also use a clothespin to attach a baseball card to their bicycle so that it chattered against the spokes and made a lot of noise. I hope they weren't using a Hank Aaron card for that!

    Jocelyn, your story made me laugh. I'm guessing that Robin Yount never called? 😊 When my stepdaughter lived in Milwaukee, we would occasionally go to a game at Miller Park and I remember the statue of Hank Aaron at the stadium. I have very tangential links to three famous baseball players who grew up in St. Paul. Dave Winfield graduated from the same high school that I did (my older sister was in the same graduating class as him). A couple of years behind me at Central High was a very talented athlete named Teresa Tierney. Today, Teresa is more famous for being Joe Mauer's mom. And at my first job, I worked with Paul Molitor's sister, though that was before he played for the Brewers.

    I came to love baseball later in life. When I am at the ballpark, I fill in my scorecard with each batter. My avatar is the logo of the St. Paul Saints. I was a season ticket holder for many years, until the pandemic. The Saints were in an independent league (not affiliated with any major league team). Beginning this year, the Saints are now the AAA affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. Overall, I guess it's good, but I will miss indy ball where the players play their hearts out for the love of the game and the dreams of getting noticed and signed by a major league team.

    Comment


    • jjkaiser
      jjkaiser commented
      Editing a comment
      OMG Paul MoIitor's sister???? Did you get to meet him? I still remember the chant: Moll-lee, Moll-lee! Those blue eyes and black hair! He was hot and on my secomd most wanted list. And no Robin never called any of us but I had high hopes.

    • MSN
      MSN commented
      Editing a comment
      No, I never met Paul Molitor. At the time, he had just graduated from high school and was playing for the University of Minnesota. He had made a name for himself locally, but wasn't yet famous nationally. And yes, those blue eyes!

    #5
    Rob, you are a great writer! I really enjoyed reading this story. Thanks for sharing it.

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      #6
      May he rest in peace. I wasn't a baseball fan until hubby came along. He, now we, are Boston Red Sox fans and we have been to Fenway twice. The first time (not sure of the date) we got a room at the Holiday Inn just around the corner from Fenway's. It's no longer there. We also took a tour of Fenway that was suggested to us. It was our anniversary as well. I have a really nice picture taken from behind home plate, some rows up that our son had made into a blanket for his father. The first time we were seated at Pesky's Pole, the next time we were 3 rows up from the on deck circle. We have watched a game in Baltimore as well. We have been to Cooperstown twice as well.
      Blessed are the children of the piecemakers for they shall inherit the quilts!

      Comment


        #7
        Great story! I, too, am a St Louis Cardinals fan. When I was little in the early 60s, I would sit in the grain truck at the end of the field, waiting for the combine come to the end and fill the truck. We would listen to the game on our transistor radio. Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Lou Brock. An added funny: I just told my son the other day that I needed to get transistor batteries. LOL He had no idea what I was talking about. Had to tell him they were 9v batteries. Thanks for those memories, Rob. Rest in peace, Mr Aaron. He is joining some other greats that have passed this year.

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          #8
          I once worked with Hank's niece, she was a doll and I enjoyed working with her immensely. Her son Aaron was named after Hank.
          My DH was a huge baseball fan who collected cards but when he moved away from home his mother threw them out not realizing their value.😥 He watched many a game of the Birmingham Barons [they probably had another name back in the 60s and 70s] When he wakes from his nap I will get more info.
          The Barons were a farm club for the Oakland A s and there was a lot of talent that played here that he was able to watch, Raleigh Fingers, Dave Duncan and probably many more. He said that Hank had already retired by the time he was able to afford tickets and/or trips to Atlanta to see the Braves play.
          Last edited by Claire Hallman; January 24, 2021, 01:02 PM.

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          • MSN
            MSN commented
            Editing a comment
            I think that many, many moms have thrown out boxes of baseball cards.
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