“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.” Vin Scully - April 8, 1974
40 years later and it’s still a moment we could watch again and again!
A couple of years ago the Sarasota Herald Tribune published an article about the real history of Hank Aaron’s first Spring Training home run. Today marks the 60th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s first home run in Spring training. Thanks to research by Matt Tavares for a book he published in 2010, we have a clearer picture of Hank Aaron’s first home run.
Hank Aaron’s home run did happen in Sarasota, but it didn’t happen on March 14. It happened four days earlier on March 10. That is three days before Bobby Thomson broke his ankle. It’s possible that Thomson’s injury helped Aaron’s progress, but Aaron was in the lineup on the 10th. Also, it’s impossible for Ted Williams to have come running out of the clubhouse that day. Williams had broken his collarbone on March 1, and was in a Boston hospital on March 10.
In 1954, the Milwaukee Braves played their Spring training games at Braves Field (now known as McKechnie Field) in Bradenton, Florida. It’s a short trip South to Sarasota. Payne Park was destroyed in 1990 and replaced with a city park. Sarasota is still home to Spring training baseball, but the new park (Ed Smith Stadium) is no longer located downtown.
I walked to Payne Park today to take some pictures from around the grounds. The spot where home plate used to sit is inaccessible by the public. A tennis club now exists where the infield existed, but I was able to get into the club to get this picture from the spot where Hank Aaron hit his first home run.
The picture above is where home plate would have been looking towards center field. This is the spot Hank Aaron stood 60 years ago today when he hit his first home run in Spring training.
Outside of the tennis club there is a history marker with information about Payne Park.
Over the 66 year history of Payne Park, it was the Spring training home of the New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox.
This pond sits where left field existed.
Great view from Payne Park.
Hank Aaron’s first home run in Spring training is a huge piece of baseball’s history, but the 60th anniversary has passed largely unnoticed. The old park doesn’t exist anymore and most people have forgotten Payne Park and Hank Aaron’s first home run.
Payne Park was the spring training home for several MLB teams and the site of Hank Aaron’s first HR on March 10, 1954. #Braves (at Payne Park)
It’s 44 days until Opening Days. Home Run king Hank Aaron wore 44. Here’s a picture of Aaron hitting a home run off Mets’ pitcher Roger Craig at the Polo Grounds.
Hitting home runs against the Mets never gets old.
The Braves will wear this patch on their right sleeve this season.