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60th Anniversary of Hank Aaron’s First Spring Training Home Run

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.image

This pond sits where left field existed.

imageGreat view from Payne Park.

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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)
Mar 10, 2014 / 11 notes

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)

Feb 26, 2014 / 3 notes
Feb 22, 2014 / 11 notes
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. 
Feb 15, 2014 / 11 notes

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. 

On March 14th, 1954, Hank Aaron hit his first ever home run in Spring Training. The game was at Payne Park in Sarasota, FL. Payne Park was the Spring Training home of the Boston Red Sox at the time. The baseball park was torn down in 1990 and now a city park resides in its place. 
Feb 7, 2014 / 10 notes

On March 14th, 1954, Hank Aaron hit his first ever home run in Spring Training. The game was at Payne Park in Sarasota, FL. Payne Park was the Spring Training home of the Boston Red Sox at the time. 

The baseball park was torn down in 1990 and now a city park resides in its place. 

Feb 6, 2014 / 9 notes

The Braves announced yesterday that they’re retiring the red jersey. There seems to be no middle ground on this jersey. You either loved it or hated it.

Count me in the “I didn’t like it’ category. Hopefully, the Braves come out with something next season. I would mind a throwback to the Milwaukee Braves uniform (‘56 era).  I like the tomahawk and number on the front. 

Happy 80th birthday to the true Home Run King, Hank Aaron!
Feb 5, 2014 / 15 notes

Happy 80th birthday to the true Home Run King, Hank Aaron!

Jan 25, 2014 / 26 notes
Jan 25, 2014 / 12 notes
June 25,1968 Sportlight BY DAVE KALVELAGE Gazette Sports Editor Here’s a quick quiz for all the old Milwaukee Braves fans lingering in this area. Identify the following players: Marty Martinez, Rob Tillman. Bob Johnson, Ted Davidson, Mike Lum, Skip (liiimi, Ron Reed, Jim Britton. Unless you’ve stuck with the Braves, you’ve probably never heard of most of these players. They’re all Braves now…’the .Atlanta variety of Braves. While on vacation. T stopped in Atlanta and took in a Braves game with Cincinnati. I found things much different from the good old days in Milwaukee. The Braves have gone to the gimmick. Oh, there were hints of this idea just before the move to Dixie when they brought, in the dancing Indian. But now, the gimmick is everywhere. The dancing Indian still is around. He’s called Noe-A-IIoma and sits in his tepee in left field, lie leads the Braves onto the field and when an Atlanta player hits a home run, .he fires a muzzle-loading rifle and smoke pours from the tepee. Another attraction is Big Victor, a 22-foot styro- foam Indian in right field. When a Brave hits a home run, Victor turns his head, flashes his eyes and waves his tomahawk. It’s not. really very exciting. And there’s more. There’s an autograph booth in left field where fans can go before the game and get players’ signatures. Fans who catch foul balls can take them to a booth and receive an honorary Braves’ contract. The ushers are girls wearing red mini-skirt outfits and have a feather in their hair. If that’s not enough, the night I was there, the team declared a Family Night and admitted women and children at reduced rates. In addition, there was a fireworks display following the game. Take all these attractions, add a beautiful, new stadium, a second-place team, and a cloudless night with 75-degree temperature and you’d expect an excellent crowd. It’s not so in Atlanta. There was a crowd of 12,204 the night I attended. Now that figure is misleading. The people of Atlanta and the Southeast like the Braves. You hear the games on radios in cars, stores and even homes with open windows. There are Braves decals and bumper stickers on cars and some pennants are spotted, too. But fans just don’t come out to the ball game. • The amazing thing is that much of the crowd seems to be from out of town. The Braves designate each game as a Community Night and recognition is paid to a city. Large groups attend trom all over the Southeast, which is the way the Braves intended. They have ticket outlets in five states. Atlanta fans know baseball. They can spot a strategy and know what to expect. They’ll applaud a good fielding play…even if it’s by the opposing team. When Milt JPappas left the mound in the seventh inning of his second game with the Braves, he got a standing ovation. Aaron and Torre haven’t much company from the old Milwaukee gang. There are Felipe Alou, Ken Johnson, Claude Raymond, Phil Niekro and Tommie Aaron. Most of the rest have been acquired in trades. Atlanta’s stadium is a beauty. It’s located downtown in an area which was once a slum. An expressway runs past the stadium, allowing easy entrance and exit. The stadium is circular in design and thoughtfully furnished. Seats are painted various shades of blue. There are three message boards which flash coming events, records, other scores and even tell how to score each play.’ Bill Bartholomay, the chairman of the Braves’ board, was regarded as a villain in Milwaukee. In Atlanta, the club seems to’be trying to build him up as a.hero. One full page of the program is devoted to Bartholomay and includes pictures of him at work and play.
Janesville Daily Gazette - June 25, 1968
Jan 19, 2014 / 1 note