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Hank Aaron exhibit to open at Emory on April 24

BY HOWARD POUSNER / AJC

Hank Aaron, who was honored by the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday on the 40th anniversary of his record-breaking 715th home run, will be the subject of a small exhibit opening April 24 at Emory University’s Robert W. Woodruff Library.

“He Had a Hammer: The Legacy of Hank Aaron in Baseball and American Culture” will include scouting reports, fan and hate mail, photos and posters.

The exhibit was drawn from Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL), including recently processed and now available-to-the-public materials from the collection of former Braves executive Richard A. Cecil. It was co-curated by Emory baseball players Kyle Arbuckle, Warren Kember and Brett Lake.

Through Aug. 10. Free, 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta. www.web.library.emory.edu.

Here is more from Emory on Dick Cecil’s baseball collection:

Cecil’s Hank Aaron materials in MARBL include scouting reports that assess Aaron’s potential as a Major League Baseball prospect; telegrams between the Boston Braves management and the Indianapolis Clowns, Aaron’s Negro League team; and a copy of Aaron’s first contract with the Boston Braves (the team moved to Milwaukee in 1953, a year before his first MLB game with the Braves, then moved to Atlanta in 1966).

Most notable is the hate mail Aaron received as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s home run record, which Aaron broke when he hit his 715th home run in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974. The MARBL materials include about 150 letters from 1972 and 1973, some supporting Aaron as he chased the record, and some with foul language from people angry that he might break Ruth’s record. Some of the letters contained death threats serious enough to trigger an FBI probe; the Cecil collection includes a report on the FBI’s hate mail investigation.

“In some of the letters, these people described how they would kill him,” said Pellom McDaniels III, MARBL faculty curator of African American Collections. ”I thought it was audacious; some people signed their names and provided return addresses, as if it were acceptable to say these hateful things without fear of any repercussions.”

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