Thursday, February 12, 2015

Where was Alabama baseball legend Hank Aaron really born?

Where was Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron really born?

This question was posed to me last Thursday, which also happened to be Aaron’s 81st birthday.

Almost every source you check says that Hank Aaron was born on Feb. 5, 1934 in Mobile, but a few others say he was actually born in Wilcox County and moved to Mobile as a small child.

According to members of the Wilcox Historical Society, which is based in Camden, Aaron was “most certainly” born in Possum Bend, which is just outside of Camden. Historical society members went on to say that Aaron still has a number of immediate family members living in Wilcox County today, and they have often related stories about Aaron’s birth in Wilcox County. Those relatives have also acknowledged that Aaron did not claim Wilcox County as his birthplace later in life, society members said.

Camden’s ties to Aaron are so strong that if you go there today, you can drive down Hank Aaron Drive, which is about half a mile long and runs adjacent to Wilcox Central High School. This street was named in Aaron’s honor several years ago.

However, I think it’s odd that almost all sources outside of Wilcox County say that the legendary home run hitter was born in Mobile. Various sources say that Hank Aaron’s grandfather, Henry Aaron Sr., raised his family in Camden, and his son, Herbert Aaron, moved to Mobile at the age of 19 in 1927 to search for work.

According to Charlie Vascellaro’s book “Hank Aaron: A Biography,” Herbert Aaron and his wife Estella relocated from Camden to the “Down the Bay” section Mobile, and Hank Aaron was born there in 1934. “By the time Hank was four years old, he was following the bigger kids to Council Field and was already showing a prowess for baseball,” Vascellaro wrote in his book. Other sources say, Aaron spent most of his youth in Toulminville.

As a high school freshman and sophomore, Aaron went to Central High School in Mobile and played baseball and football. As a junior, he transferred to a nearby private school called Josephine Allen Institute, which also had a baseball team. At the age of 18, he quit school in 1951 to pursue his career in baseball.

(As a side note, I think it’s interesting that Aaron played at Central High School in Mobile because Central was a frequent opponent of the Conecuh County Training School in Evergreen. While I have no proof of it, it’s possible that Aaron may have visited Evergreen as a high school freshman or sophomore to play in games against CCTS.)

In the end, while Aaron’s exact birthplace is up for debate, his status as one of the greatest baseball players of all time isn’t. He is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s home record when he hit his 715th career home run in 1974. When he retired in 1976, he departed the game with 755 career home runs.

He was also a 25-time all-star, the National League MVP in 1957, won three Gold Gloves, was National League batting champion twice, was the National League home run champion four times and was the National League RBI champion four times. In addition to being named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, his No. 44 jersey was also retired by the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

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