|Hank Aaron in 1952.|
While most sources say that Aaron was born in Mobile, members of the Wilcox Historical Society say that Aaron was born at Possum Bend, which is just west of Camden. Society members say that Aaron still has family members in Wilcox County, and that they have often told stories about Aaron’s birth in Wilcox County. A short time after his birth in 1934, he moved to Mobile, where he grew up and began to play baseball.
Aaron made his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Braves on April 13, 1954, but prior to that he played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. The Clowns were formed in the 1930s as an independent team and joined the Negro American League in 1943. Any of you who saw the 1976 baseball comedy “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” may remember that it was loosely based on the Clowns.
Prior to signing with the Clowns on Nov. 20, 1951, Aaron played for two semipro teams in the Mobile area, the Prichard Athletics and the Mobile Black Bears. During the 1952 season, Aaron played three months for the Clowns as a shortstop and clean-up hitter. The future Hall of Famer, who would go on to break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, made a whopping $200 a month.
Researchers at the Howe Sports Bureau are the recognized authority on Negro League stats and records. According to their research, Aaron played in 26 official Negro League games, compiling a .366 batting average, which drew the attention of Major League scouts. In those games, Aaron also recorded 41 hits (including five home runs), drove in 33 runs and stole nine bases.
|Jimmy Newberry of Camden|
In the end, my feeling is that Wilcox County has probably produced other Negro League players, so please contact me if you know of any others besides Aaron and Newberry. Also, please let me know if you have any additional information about Aaron and Newberry’s ties to Wilcox County. In light of Major League Baseball’s recent announcement regarding the Negro Leagues, there is no better time than right now to document this information.