Let’s take a break from insurrection, plague and the polar vortex to think about spring and honor. Let’s name the diamond on which the Milwaukee Brewers play baseball “Hank Aaron Field.”
People often forget that Aaron, who died on January 22nd, started and finished his major league career in Milwaukee. He played for the Milwaukee Braves from 1954 until he moved with the team to Atlanta in 1966. But he returned to Milwaukee to play two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975 and 1976. In fact, he broke Babe Ruth’s RBI record as a Brewer and he hit his last home run (#755) in July, 1976 at the old County Stadium. He even played his last All Star game in that same stadium wearing a Brewer uniform and, of course, he retired as a Brewer.
In fact, Aaron came out of a brief retirement to return to Milwaukee mostly as a favor to us. He didn’t need the money or the accolades, but the Brewers were a young, struggling franchise and they needed a boost. In Hank’s first year back they set an attendance record. The ball club was mediocre and Aaron was past his prime, but people showed up just to see him play one more time.
Moreover, he always spoke warmly of Milwaukee and how he was treated there, even in the 1950’s. Aaron put up with his share of racism throughout his career, and no doubt that included his time in Milwaukee, but he still had kind words for the city. In an interview in 2012 Aaron said, “The people here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin molded me into the person I am today. I was a young kid when I came here, unfamiliar with everything. I met so many good friends, people who were dear to my heart and taught me what life was all about, other than just baseball.”
All of which is to say that Aaron deserves more than to have his number retired (it already is) and a statue in front of the stadium (it’s already there). It would be fitting to name the field for him. That would be overwhelmingly popular with both fans and players.
It would be even better to name the whole stadium after him, but the days of naming stadiums to honor people who deserve it have given way to the days of auctioning off naming rights to the highest bidder.
In a travesty, Miller Park has now been renamed American Family Field. Miller beer, of course, has a strong connection to Milwaukee, but AmFam is a Madison company. What’s next? Tofu hot dogs? Substitute “Varsity” for “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch? I’m a Madisonian and American Family is a fine corporate citizen of my town, but this is just wrong.
But I digress. There would have to be a few dollars spent on changing logos, signage and whatnot as it would have to be something like “Hank Aaron Field at American Family Stadium.” That’s a detail and the owners could recoup even these relative nickels and dimes by charging more for beer and parking, as they certainly will anyway, the money sucking leeches!
But again I digress. Henry Aaron was perhaps the finest all around ballplayer ever, he was a gentleman, and he had a warm spot in his heart for Milwaukee. He deserves the honor of having the Brewers’ field named for him and, as fans, we would honor ourselves by insisting on it.