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People In Atlanta Honor Baseball Great Henry 'Hank' Aaron

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Baseball great Hank Aaron is being remembered as a transcendent figure in American history. That's how former Atlanta Braves Third Baseman Chipper Jones described his fellow Hall of Famer. Aaron died last week at the age of 86. And he was honored in a celebration of life at the Braves home ballpark. Emil Moffatt of member station WABE reports.

EMIL MOFFATT, BYLINE: A larger-than-life statue of Hank Aaron's classic powerful swing stands in the concourse behind home plate at Truist Park. It was there a small group of family and friends gathered to hear memories of one of baseball's all-time great sluggers. Former Major League Outfielder Marquis Grissom recalled what Aaron told him the first time they met when Grissom was playing baseball in college.

MARQUIS GRISSOM: You got to get your education. And if you get an opportunity, you do your very best.

MOFFATT: Grissom said it was something he's remembered all of his life.

GRISSOM: We all talk about the numbers, the home runs, the stats. But I tell you, the man off the field was incredible.

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UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

MOFFATT: Aaron spent nearly all of his career with the Braves, first in Milwaukee, then Atlanta, including a 2 1/2 year stretch that was full of racist death threats as Aaron chased and surpassed Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. Former Braves Third Baseman Chipper Jones says Aaron left a lasting mark.

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CHIPPER JONES: He set the perfect example for everyone in Atlanta Braves organization on how to deal with adversity. You just spread a little grace on it, and you go play ball. Keep swinging, as he would say. I feel that if Hank were to have one last message for all of us, it would be to respect each other, to help each other and to keep love in your heart.

MOFFATT: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke of the parallels between baseball's first Black player and the one who, a generation later, also etched his name into the record books.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROB MANFRED: Just as Jackie Robinson was the perfect person to change our game forever in 1947, Hank Aaron was the perfect person to meet the historic moment that he created in 1974.

MOFFATT: Aaron's family, President Bill Clinton, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and former baseball commissioner Bud Selig will speak at Aaron's funeral this afternoon in Atlanta.

For NPR News, I'm Emil Moffatt.

(SOUNDBITE OF RE:PLUS' "MOONSCAPE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.