Sixty years ago, on June 14th, 1952, Hank Aaron played his first professional baseball game for the Milwaukee Braves farm team, the Eau Claire Bears, in my hometown of Eau Claire, WI. Without a doubt this is my hometown's most celebrated event. In honor of this there have been Hank Aaron related events around town and I've been getting my fill over the past few days.
On Wednesday night, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire held a panel discussion on Negro League baseball and invited three former Negro League players to speak. From left to right, we had Carl Long who played for the Birmingham Black Barons and was signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. Heron O'Neal played for the Indianapolis Clowns were were sort of a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters. In the Chicago White Sox hat is Ray "Boo Boy" Knox who played catcher for the Chicago American Giants.
During the course of the talk they announced that the three players would be throwing out the first pitch at the Eau Claire Express game. That game would be honoring Hank Aaron's first game in Eau Claire and even better, it has HANK AARON BOBBLE HEAD NIGHT!!!
The weather had been horrible all day with storm after storm coming through. But a few hours before the game the storms stopped and I was hopping we would be able to get a few innings in before the next round came through. We got to see the three Negro League players throw out the first pitch and then everything was put on hold and it started raining harder.
And in true minor league fashion the whole team gets in on the putting out the tarp action.
The rain delay began and the game was eventually called...meaning double header on Friday! But it was all worth it as I've got a new signed baseball to add to my modest autograph collection.