Where: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.
A young man – maybe 19 – stands in front of his local train depot in 1953. He could be waiting for a favorite cousin to arrive, or he may be about to board the train that will deliver him to his destiny.
This photograph was taken of Henry “Hank” Aaron in Mobile, Alabama just prior to his departure for the Negro Leagues. Bunny Downs, team manager of the Indianapolis Clowns, had just negotiated the deal with Aaron’s family that would allow the young recruit to leave home and join the team on the road. It is presumed that Downs took this photo.
“This is not the largest or most well-known item we display, but it is by far one of my favorites,” says Dr. Raymond Doswell, vice president of curatorial services for the museum. “This photograph denotes a moment in American history when greatness was discovered.”
Aaron played for the Clowns in 1953 and was then recruited by the Milwaukee Braves, who later moved to Atlanta. The rest, they say, is history. Aaron developed into one of the greatest baseball players of all time, breaking Babe Ruth’s long-standing career home run record of 715 before setting the new one at 755.
A version of this story originally appeared in The Kansas City Star on April 4, 2010.