Hank Aaron Thrills Overflow Crowd at Hall of Fame Exhibit Opening

Hall of Famer Helps Dedicate ‘Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream’

April 25, 2009
Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream opened in April of 2009. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, NY – Hank Aaron brought history to life on Saturday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. And the fans – some of whom weren’t even born when Aaron played his last big league game – came out to show their appreciation.

Aaron thrilled an overflow crowd at the opening of Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, the Hall of Fame’s historic new exhibit chronicling Aaron’s life, from childhood through his big league career and post-baseball career, including his vast philanthropic efforts.

Fans – many clad in Braves jerseys – lined up at the Museum more than two hours before the ribbon-cutting ceremony to catch a glimpse of the 75-year-old Aaron, who attended the ceremony with his wife Billye and Braves Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay.

“No matter what you accomplish, what you achieve, you don’t go down the path by yourself,” Aaron said. “I want to thank everyone who helped me along that path.”

“Chasing the Dream” features four topical explorations of the life and times of Aaron, from his early days as a youth in Mobile, Ala., through his present endeavors with the Chasing the Dream Foundation. The exhibit details his climb to excellence in his major league career, along with an entire section dedicated to chasing Babe Ruth’s historic home run record in 1974. “Chasing the Dream” marks the first of two exhibits slated to open in honor of Aaron, with “Hank Aaron: Gallery of Records,” an exhibit recognizing the statistical leaders of baseball, slated to open in 2011.

The Hall of Fame’s new exhibit Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream is made possible in part with support from: the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Royals and Museum supporter Bob Crotty.

“Through this exhibit,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, “visitors will learn about a man who was a Hall of Famer in every sense.”

The exhibit features artifacts from Aaron’s career including the bat and ball used to hit home run No. 714 to tie Babe Ruth, the bats and balls from his 3,000th hit, 500th and 600th home run and the balls hit to record his 755th homer – on long-term loan to the Museum by Hall of Fame supporter Andy Knuth – and 2,210th RBI. Aaron’s uniform shirt, pants, cap and helmet worn while he hit the record-breaking 715th homer are displayed in the new exhibit alongside his locker, 1957 World Series Ring, MVP award and many other artifacts from his historic career.

“The artifacts need to be here so all people around the world can come see them,” said Aaron, long one of the Museum’s most generous donors.

In his 23-year major league career with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron produced 3,771 hits, 755 home runs and 2,297 RBIs, all records at the time of his retirement from baseball in 1976. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 on his first appearance on the ballot.

Following retirement, Aaron has engaged in many philanthropic efforts, including The Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, which helps underprivileged children, with special talents, pursue their dreams and realize opportunities not readily available to them, in areas ranging from music and the arts to sciences and athletics. Additionally, the Hank Aaron Award was created in 1999 by Major League Baseball to honor the best hitters each year in the American and National Leagues. In 2001, Aaron received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Bill Clinton. In 2002, Aaron received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, the nation’s highest civilian honor.