Home for a Legend

Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum now open

June 08, 2010
Seven Hall of Famers attended the opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum. (Chip English/Mobile BayBears)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – When Hank Aaron Stadium opened in Mobile, Ala., in 1997, the staff never could have imagined seven Hall of Famers gracing the field before a Mobile BayBears Double-A minor league baseball game.

But that is exactly what happened at the BayBears home opener on April 14 when the team opened the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum at the stadium – honoring the legacy of legendary Hall of Famer Henry Aaron.

“We couldn’t have been happier to hear that the BayBears were going to put together this Museum,” said Erik Strohl, senior director of exhibitions and collections for the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We were happy to hear that his house was going to be saved and that they were going to preserve a little piece of history.”

The new museum has about 100 personal artifacts on display from Aaron’s life growing up in segregated Alabama as well as items from his parents and siblings, including Aaron’s younger brother, former major leaguer Tommie Aaron. Even the house has been taken back in time, retrofitted closer to the time it was built in the early 1940s.

“We were proud to work with the Mobile BayBears team and their staff to help the museum come to fruition,” Strohl said.

The Baseball Hall of Fame loaned over 50 artifacts to the new museum, including Aaron’s 1959 Gold Glove Award, his 1965 Silver Slugger Award and a uniform he wore in 1972.

“We were very happy to be involved. Henry is a tremendous Hall of Famer. His place in the game is unparalleled, because of not just what he has done on the field, but what he has done off the field,” Strohl said. “He is a businessman, a philanthropist, one of the first black executives, and his Chasing the Dream foundation has donated millions of dollars and helped many, many kids.”

Aaron’s Hall of Fame teammates were well-represented on that April night in Mobile, ranging from Bob Feller – who has been a Hall of Famer for more than half of his life – to Rickey Henderson, one of the newest inductees to Cooperstown. Joining them were Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter.

“I’ve never been involved in an event with that many Hall of Famers outside of Cooperstown or a major league park and it was really something to behold,” Strohl said.

The Hall of Famers joined Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and several Diamondbacks executives for a ribbon-cutting before the game as well as an on-field presentation. The BayBears are a minor league affiliate of Arizona.

Each Hall of Famer was introduced by Idelson and spoke about Aaron’s legacy.

“Henry Aaron is not just a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, he transcended sport and has become an American icon,” said Strohl. “His impact upon American culture and what he has done for black entrepreneurship and civil rights and kids in need is off the chart. He is up there with people like Babe Ruth who changed culture, and it’s not a coincidence that those are the only two Hall of Famers who have their own rooms at the Hall.”

The Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum is open on all BayBears gamedays from 10 a.m. until the 5th inning. On non-gamedays the Museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Because of the extensiveness of the Museum, tour reservations are encouraged.

“I think it is great that there are two places to celebrate Henry Aaron,” Strohl said. “It is appropriate that here at the Hall of Fame, he will be immortalized forever, and now the house where he was born will provide a place that marks the beginning of his legacy.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum