An MLB.com article last Friday recounted the tributes paid to Henry Aaron on the occasion of his 75th birthday. The guest list at the birthday party included the likes of former President Bill Clinton, who told of a last-ditch campaign stop in Georgia in 1992 where the Hall of Famer joined him on the stump.
According to the article, Clinton was urged to take a final swing through Georgia in the hopes of the admittedly long-shot possibility of carrying the traditionally Republican state.
(Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame and Library/Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Clinton was reportedly persuaded when aides told him Henry would join him at the last-minute campaign stop in Atlanta. As Clinton recalled it, he responded, “Well, if I go and get to meet him, I don’t care if I carry Georgia or not.”
I’ll quote the article verbatim here:
When Clinton arrived in Atlanta, he spoke to a crowd of approximately 25,000, half of whom he’s convinced showed up simply to see Aaron.
Three days later, when Clinton carried the state of Georgia by 13,000 votes and won the presidential election, Aaron immediately thought that this represented half the total of people who had come out to hear that final campaign address in Atlanta.
“He has never let me forget that,” Clinton said. “He told me, ‘James Carville and all these other people say they won the election for you. I’m the only one who has carried a state for you, and don’t ever forget that.’ ”
I always get tickled when Aaron seems to get accorded the respect he deserves, not because he’s the all-time home run king (sans any figurative asterisk), but because of the way he conducted himself as an American icon for 75 years.
In recent years the reverence has built nicely, but I’ve been disappointed a number of times, though I’ll concede some of that may be because I set the bar pretty high. Some of that.
But nearly nine years ago when I was the All-Star Game at Turner Field in Atlanta, I remember writing an SCD column afterward that talked about the reception, or lack of same, that Henry received from the Atlanta crowd that day.
Herewith I quote myself: “At about 8:35 p.m., before the All-Star Game started, Adonis Guilfoyle, the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Department for Greater Downtown Atlanta, was speaking in front of 75 weary Rotary Club members. At the same moment, Henry Aaron was introduced as he tossed out the first pitch of the 2000 All-Star Game. Guess who got the bigger ovation?”
Hey, it’s only been nine years; clearly, I’ve gotten over it.