What the legendary Hank Aaron meant to Cincinnati Baseball

Pete Rose will never forget Hank Aaron’s kindness.

“Henry was a guy – you played against him, but you drew for him because he was such a great guy,” Rose told WCPO on Friday afternoon.

Aaron, one of the greatest baseball legends who completed 755 home races, died Friday. The Hall of Famer was 86.

MLB.com wrote on Friday that Aaron is one of the most significant figures in American history for having persevered through racism and becoming a civil rights activist.

“He’s literally a Hall of Famer on and off the field,” said Rick Walls, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. “What he stands for is great for baseball and is related to the Reds in many ways.”

Terry Helmer / WCPO

The Reds Hall of Fame and Museum have several items related to the late Hank Aaron.

Cincinnati was an important city for Aaron during his career.

The Reds Hall of Fame and the museum have a variety of items related to Aaron’s career, including bats, scorecards, and a warm-up jacket.

“He was a really good baseball player,” said Rose. “I mean, he could run, he could play defense. He could steal bases – 755 home runs. One in three people who get over 2,000 RBIs.”

Aaron made his major league debut at Crosley Field in 1954. In this game, Aaron faced left-handed Joe Nuxhall, who later became a legend in the Reds radio booth.

When Rose first appeared in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis in 1965, the day before the game he sat between Aaron and Willie Mays, the outfielder of the San Francisco Giants.

“I’ll never forget how much they went out of their way to make me feel good,” said Rose. “So that I feel like one of the boys.”

Rose watched Aaron achieve 3,000 career hits at Crosley Field in May 1970.

A little over a month later, the Reds moved to Riverfront Stadium, where Rose and Aaron were All-Star Game teammates for the game in Cincinnati.

Four years later, Aaron joined Babe Ruth in his 714th home race ahead of Reds pitcher Jack Billingham on the 1974 opening day at Riverfront Stadium.

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Terry Helmer / WCPO

Hank Aaron tield Babe Ruth in his 714th home race on April 4, 1974 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.

Former long-time Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman – in his first game in the Reds radio booth – called Aaron’s homerun.

Aaron visited the Great American Ball Park for the Civil Rights game in 2009 and the MLB All-Star game in 2015.

“He’s had events at the Freedom Center and in the field,” said Walls. “Everyone wants to get close to him while he was there. He was considered the god in baseball and it was Hank Aaron and it was amazing.”

Aaron began his baseball career in 1951 with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues. Just seven months after starting them, he signed with the Boston Braves.

He stayed on the team for 21 years when they moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta. He made his debut in a major league game in Milwaukee in 1954 after left fielder Bobby Thomson broke an ankle.

In 1974, Aaron hit homerun number 715 in a game against the Dodgers, beating Babe Ruth’s record. At the end of his baseball career, he would hit 755 home runs.

He returned to Milwaukee in 1975 to end his career with the Brewers.

Aaron became the first MLB player to hit 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

Earlier this month, Aaron joined several civil rights leaders who received the COVID-19 vaccine at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Information from Scripps National and MLB.com was used in this report.

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