HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — It might look like some rocks these days, but 69 years ago the picture below was the site where Hank Aaron last played before being called up to the Boston Braves in Major League Baseball.
“Some of the best in the world that we’ve grown up with to know as Hall of Fame major league baseball players started right here in Hot Springs and Hank Aaron was one of them,” said Rober Raines, Gangster Museum of America Director.
In 1952, one of the 12 games of the Negro League World Series was played at Wittington Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
In that series, an 18-year-old Hank Aaron hit five home runs with a .402 batting average leading the Indianapolis Clowns to a championship.
“In the Negro Leagues the World Series was a big deal. He’ll go down as the greatest hitter in the Negro League World Series and that’s kind of important,” said Raines.
Hank then quickly slid into the people of Hot Springs’ Hearts.
“People here followed him. They just had a built-in fan base because you wouldn’t just see them practicing, you’d see him in the clubs, hotels, restaurants,” said Raines
Although he was a star, Arkansans remember him for his homerun personality.
“One thing they always said about him here is that he was one of the kindest baseball players they’d ever met. He’d always talk to people, talk to kids, he never shunned anybody.”
Bobby J. Rains is a historian at the Hot Springs Gangster Museum and grew up a Braves’ fan and witnessed ‘Hammerin Hank’ make history.
“I’d met some people who knew him personally and they said he was really a gentleman.” said Bobby J. Rains – Gangster Museum Historian/Tour Guide, “I was at the game in Atlanta with Al Downing pitching and he hit his 714th home run and we were all so excited. It broke Babe Ruth’s record. And so it meant a lot.”
“Hank Aaron had a chance to hit against some of the greatest pitchers here in Spring Training. That’s where he honed his game right here,” said Rains.