The Atlanta Braves marked Hank Aaron’s 80th birthday Thursday by playing a Hank Aaron Tribute at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves and the 2019 World Series.
Aaron launched 755 home runs over his career and completed his Hall of Fame induction in the 80th year of his career when he was enshrined in Cooperstown in July. Aaron was joined by 11 family members, including wife Veronica, with six of Aaron’s grandchildren attending the event.
This year marks the seventh and final year of Aaron’s team legacy at SunTrust Park, as the Braves have moved to midtown Atlanta and the park has been altered to increase space for corporate amenities. The Braves also added corporate logoed suites.
Aaron had dinner at the stadium earlier this week and shared his memories of a free, public press conference in Atlanta.
“In a sport where players are famous for earning very, very little, many players don’t earn anything, and this was one of the rare times when people were letting me know how much I meant to them,” Aaron said. “It’s still tremendous to see. It’s still something that I appreciate and appreciate to see everybody come out here.”
The Hank Aaron Tribute included a ceremonial first pitch from Ted Turner, T.D. Marshall, and Lee Smith, who were part of the broadcast team on Opening Day 1966 in Atlanta. ESPN’s Derek Jeter came in as a member of the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame.
The scoreboard above the left field corner showed banners from the 1964, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1991, 1997, and 2003 World Series, bringing the season total to 19 banners displaying Aaron’s portrait.
The Hank Aaron Tribute also included a video tribute to Aaron from 1986 through 2018, including reactions from Aaron, Bob Uecker, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, and Buster Posey, as well as a portrait gallery featuring Aaron.
The tribute for Hank Aaron was a special one. Watch all 3 hours of the tribute & get a blast from the past and present of the best home run hitter of all time. pic.twitter.com/12y4nCJvcr — Atlanta Braves (@Braves) November 22, 2018
The opening two games of the World Series, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, were filmed at SunTrust Park. For some players who had never played a postseason game in Atlanta, that made a special moment.
“This is awesome,” said B.J. Upton, who played six seasons in Atlanta from 2007-10. “This is such a cool part of my career and special to have this part of history be right here, playing at the Braves’ new home. It makes you want to come up and enjoy it.”
Contact Sports Columnist Tim Warsinskey at [email protected] or 419-724-6065.