MACON, Ga. — To many around the world, Henry "Hank" Aaron was "Hammerin' Hank," the sports icon who broke Babe Ruth's homerun record, but here in Georgia, he was more than that. He was an icon, and to understand what he meant to Georgia can't quite be quantified.
"He was an idol of mine of when I was a kid and he was an idol of mine when I made it to the big leagues," said Jeff Treadway, a former Atlanta Braves player.
Treadway, who is also a Georgia Sports Hall of Famer, met Hank Aaron for the first time in a scary circumstance, trying to make the team roster after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds.
"[Aaron] was in the organization at the time. [He] let me know the Braves needed me that they came after me for a reason. I think, right after talking to him, I think I got four hits in a training game and it did, it set me at ease, made me feel better about the situation," Treadway said.
That's how it was with Hank Aaron. Despite at one time being the homerun king, he always made people feel comfortable.
"What an honor to have known him and to get to have known him and a person I would love to call a friend," Treadway said.
Jim McLendon, who runs the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, can recall the accolades like anyone else -- 755 career home runs, 25 All-Star appearances, 3 Gold Gloves, a championship, and a MVP. He says people come from all over to see Aaron's exhibit.
"They know his records, they know what he meant to baseball. They know what he meant to humanity and mankind and they look forward to coming in to this exhibit," McLendon said. "We've got an interactive display upstairs where you can announce the game for his 715th homerun."
McLendon remembers watching the game where Aaron hit that legendary homerun and all the attention it brought to the Braves organization.
"Here's a guy from Atlanta that had mediocre teams before then for a long time. He just broke the homerun record, he broke the Babe's record. It brought a lot of recognition to the Atlanta Braves," McLendon said, but beyond the all the accolades, Hank will be remembered for his philanthropy, his work in civil rights and his leadership.
"If you look at the world today and our country, he can't be replaced. I think we need him here, today," Treadway said.
Hank Aaron was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. He is still baseball's all-time leader in runs batted in and total bases. His 755 homerun record stood for decades. Aaron was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Pennsylvania in 1982.