Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baseball Place No. 19: The Hank Aaron Home Run Wall; and No. 19A) Milwaukee County Stadium

Which is more important, a record broken or a record set?

Josh Pahigian takes us to Atlanta, where all that remains of Fulton County Stadium is a section of fence and wall marking the spot where Hank Aaron hit Al Downing’s fastball into history.

The exact area where the Hammer passed the Babe is spot No. 19 in the “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.

An important place, to be sure. And I wish the Mets had left us with a standing portion of Shea, or even the mound so future generations can stand on Tom Seaver’s hill.

But other than passing through Atlanta on the Interstate, I’ve never been able to get to see in person the spot where 715 flew.

I did, however, get to see the place where Hank hit his final home run, No. 755, which stood for 30 years as the record, and remains today the untainted milestone.

Alternative Place No. 19A) Milwaukee County Stadium.

The big ballpark from the 1950s was home to Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Ted Higuera when Rich, Mark and I arrived in 1989, the day after the infamous visit to Comiskey Park.

But we found a nice tribute to Aaron in the stadium, where on July 20, 1976 Hank took Angel’s hulrer Dick Drago deep, the Hammer’s final blast.

Aaron, of course, began his career with the Milwaukee Braves, moved with the team to Atlanta after the 1966 season, and returned in 1975 as a Brewer for two years.

Our first impression of the stadium was that it had the best-smelling parking lot ever. I didn’t know just how many people fired up their grills to tailgate before a baseball game.

The stadium itself was grey and brick, unspectacular to the eye. But it was comfortable and friendly. It was nothing fancy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Brewers let us have all kinds of fun.

But the old yard gave us everything we wanted. Seats were close to the action, the brats with the secret sauce were as good as advertised, and everyone was friendly.

Alas, County Stadium came to an end in 2001 when Miller Park opened next door. But there are still some lasting tributes to the stadium and Aaron.

First, there is a statue of Hank, along with other important Brewers.

Then, on the spot where County once stood, the team built Helfaer Field, a little league ball park. The infield doesn’t match up exactly, as you can find the spot where the County home place once sat along the concourse.

Here’s the best part. Not only is the field scaled down, so are the prices for the brats and soda at least that was the case when we went several years ago.

It seemed like a pretty good way of preserving a part of the historic grounds without turning them into a parking lot. Are you listening, Mets?

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