Luminaries reflect on Aaron at museum
Hall of Famers effusive in praise of legendary slugger
An impressive array of baseball luminaries were in Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday night, celebrating the grand opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum.
Aaron was visibly moved by the occasion, declaring that "I have had great things happen to me, but today is the greatest day I have ever had in my entire life."
Aaron spoke at the opening reception, standing on the front porch of his refurbished childhood home. Excerpts are included below, as well as the ruminations of some of the event's visiting celebrities.
Opening Reception Excerpts
"I don't know how to thank all of you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with me one of the biggest, if not the biggest, honors of my life. For indeed, how could I have dreamed that this day would come to pass? All of this is beyond my wildest imagination, that this little house that I helped my daddy build would one day be relocated on the grounds of a stadium that was named in my honor. God truly does work in mysterious ways.
"I was the third of eight children born to Estella and Herbert Aaron. My daddy built this house, but my mother made it a home. Small and cramped though it was, Momma filled this house with Christian values, love, discipline, faith and hope. She taught us to love ourselves and love one another.
"I know Momma, Daddy, [and siblings] Herbert Jr., Sarah and her daughter Joyce, Tommie, and Gloria are looking down with great pride on this occasion. They are never far from my thoughts."
Of course, the evening's impressive roster of baseball luminaries was eager to share their thoughts. Here, in their own words, is how they characterized the legendary Aaron.
Bob Feller: "Hank is a great ballplayer, great home run hitter. I think he's still the leading home run hitter in Major League Baseball. It's a beautiful idea to bring his house here and make a museum out of it. It's good for baseball."
Rickey Henderson: "What stands out for me is when his career was over, [Aaron] took things a step further into his community, helping other kids and baseball players. He loved the game of baseball. This is the first time someone's had this [museum] idea. It gives everybody the idea that it could happen to you."
Bruce Sutter: "You are talking about the best of the best, in my opinion. I think what you have done here is just awesome, that the kids of Mobile and other Double-A players can come into this city and learn more about Henry Aaron -- the man and the ballplayer."
Ozzie Smith: "I always admired Hank from afar, but for more than the excitement he created on the field. I admire the man for his integrity. He's exemplary of what baseball should be."
Reggie Jackson: "I'm here because Henry Aaron is a man I admire, a wonderful family man, a tremendous husband, just a great exemplary person that is a great American. It's a small thing to go out of your way and come down for a man I just have so much admiration and the way that he has paved the way.I remember the things that Henry did. I was there as a fan and player at the same time."
Bud Selig: "[Aaron's] been on this incredible journey. We both kid each other about being on an incredible journey that neither one of us when we were 24-year-olds and meeting could have ever imagined. Everybody knows about his on-field legendary career, but he and his wife, Billye, have been so involved and philanthropic all over the world.
[Aaron is] grace, dignity, great career, never had any bad moments, conducted himself the way you hope every human being would do. He's become a legend because he is Hank Aaron.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.