Hank Aaron, one of the greatest baseball players of all times, recently made a historic return to Capital City Stadium and recollected his time at the field over the course of his career.
It has been about six decades since Aaron played in his last minor league game in Columbia with Jacksonville Braves. His recent visit to the stadium saw him taking questions from reporters and thousands of fans before pitching the first ball in the game between Martinsville Mustangs and Columbia Blowfish in the Coastal Plain League.
He was there on the invitation of Bill Shanahan, the owner and president of Blowfish, to help Hank Aaron Childhood Museum and the foundation, Chasing the Dream. Shanahan had been instrumental in bringing the childhood home of Aaron to Mobile, Alabama, so as to build a museum there.
Aaron said that he felt honored to be back at the stadium and thanked Shanahan for his support in converting his home into a museum. Shanahan, meanwhile, was more than simply honored to bring Aaron to the stadium. He said he was humbled when Aaron accepted his invitation and showered praise on him for being a man of integrity and someone who had an undying love for the game.
Aaron and Capital City Stadium
Even after so many years, Aaron had vivid recollections of his time in Columbia during the 1953 season. He recalled a game where he went 4 for 4 including a home run, two singles, and a triple. He had stolen the 2nd base but had been tagged out quickly after he was tricked by the baseman into lifting his foot from the bag.
Aaron said that the second baseman had told Aaron to take his foot from the bag to take a second, after which he was tagged out by the baseman. After this incident, Aaron was kept up by his coach at nights to practice sliding and keeping his feet on the bag without moving.
The legend also recollected the story behind his name "Hammerin Hank". This had happened just after he began his career and Donald Davis, the traveling secretary of the Milwaukee Braves, gave him the name which stuck on with his fans through all these years.
The Jacksonville team Aaron played with was the winner in the 1953 Sally League championship by 21-by-2 games. The finals of the series saw the opponent, Columbia, come out on top with a 4-3 win over the Braves.
The next season saw a number of injuries in the team, which caused Aaron to change position and stick with the club to start his career. Aaron eventually finished his career with 3,771 hits, 2,297 RBIs, and 624 Doubles, to go with his career average of .305.
Aaron came back to Capital City again in the 1960 and 1961 seasons when Braves played a few exhibition matches in Columbia. The final official at-bat of Aaron saw him hitting a double before being lifted in 4th innings of the game.
Capital City Stadium is on the verge of being in its last season as baseball hosting ground, and Aaron felt saddened by the tearing down of old ball stadiums.