The night began with tears. It was almost over with them, too.
V World Series That was the moment that was needed.
Ten months after his death, Hank Aaron’s legacy has once again become a saving grace.
Ever since the match between Atlanta Braves (Aaron’s former team) and Houston Astros (managed by Dusty Baker, one of his closest former teammates) was completed this month, Aaron’s memory has always been in the spotlight.
His number “44” was displayed on the central grass in Truist Park as it had been all season January after the death of natural death. His name was referred to by both managers, each of whom considered him a longtime mentor and friend.
“Hank’s prints are all over this series,” Baker said.
Braves coach Brian Snitker added: “No matter who Hank was and what he meant to the game, I think of him as a really, really good friend.”
It all came together at the ceremony of the first pitch before that Game 3. Aaron’s widow Billye stepped onto the field and wept softly while her son Hank Aaron Jr. triggered a ceremonial pitch to Freddie Freeman.
Copper raised his hand from the Astros bath and clenched his gloved fist.
“I think about him all the time, especially in a series like that,” Baker said. “I feel his presence.”
After the match, Snitker suffocated in the interview room while trying to describe the scene.
“I have to hug Billy, you know, and,” he said before a long pause, “tell her how much I missed Hank.”
Every other game in this series is accompanied by messy subplots.
Before the 1st match, Astros faced well-known questions about their 2017 character theft scandal, which two years after it went public, continues to tarnish the reputation of one of the league’s most prominent franchises.
As he led into the second game, Commissioner Rob Manfred was convicted of soundingly defending the name of the Braves team and widely mocking the “tomahawk chop” ritual at home games – and said that nonetheless calls from Indian groups since caricature of their culture is humiliating and dehumanizing, it’s okay for the Braves to continue because the league doesn’t “market our game nationally” and the Indian community near Atlanta supports the team’s brand.
Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run.
And then, in the hours before Saturday’s first pitch, the league had to explain publicly in a statement to Sports Illustrated that former President Donald Trump was not invited to the 4th game in Atlanta – as Trump’s early-day statement suggested – but instead asked to attend the event of his own volition.
If the World Series was to be the league’s final opportunity to showcase the sport, this year’s edition had the opposite effect. As a black light revealing unpleasant truths, the problematic tensions and fundamental issues of baseball instead sparked outrage and debate.
Recognizing Aaron’s memory, meanwhile, provided a contrasting disturbance reminiscent of a life spent in breaking down barriers and expanding the reach of baseball.
“I’m so happy that as an organization we were able to qualify for the World Series,” said Braves reliever Tyler Matzek, noting that the club had planned similar commemorations for the All-Star Game before the league moved it to Denver. in protest of the adoption of a controversial law on voting rights in Georgia.
“I think the players at this club house felt we needed to do something to be able to celebrate his life on the biggest stage in some way,” Matzek added. “It’s a little extra motivation to go out and show what the Braves are, and he was what the Braves were.”
Braves 24-year-old third-seeded Austin Riley smiled as he recalled moments when he met Aaron early in his career.
“It was one of those moments that chills you,” Riley said. “He did so much for this game, even outside of baseball. He moved a lot of people. “
Baker and Sniker are near the top of this list.
After Aaron helped convince the Braves to choose Baker in 1967, they were teammates for the next eight years – the beginning of a lifelong relationship that made Baker label Aaron one of his greatest personal influences.
For Sniker, Aaron was also a mentor. When Aaron ran the Braves ’farming system, he hired Snitker as a coach, helping to start a career after playing that he spent only at the Atlanta organization.
“He helped shape both,” Snitker said. “Dusty as a young player and me as a young coach [and] coach. I know he was very important in both of our careers. I know we both loved a man to death for what he did for us.
Much of the rest of the baseball world feels the same, especially this week. In the midst of the darkness of renewed controversy, Aaron’s legacy shone again.