The Jacksonville City Council Tuesday approved a bill renaming the baseball field at J.P. Small Memorial Park Stadium in honor of baseball great Henry L. “Hank” Aaron.
Aaron lived four blocks from Durkee Field in the 1950s and walked to the ballpark to play for the Jacksonville Braves, according to Durkeeville Historical Society President Lloyd Washington, who spoke with WJCT News in 2017. Aaron was one of three African American players to join the newly integrated Jacksonville Braves in 1953.
Aaron, who was nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank," was best known for shattering Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974 when he hit his 715th career home run. Aaron played professional baseball for more than 30 years and was one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management.
He passed away in January at the age of 86.
The measure was sponsored by council members Ron Salem, Ju'Coby Pittman, Sam Newby, Reggie Gaffney, Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman, Tommy Hazouri, Joyce Morgan, Terrance Freeman, Kevin Carrico, Al Ferraro, Rory Diamond and Randy White.
City Councilman Gaffney reminisced about getting to meet Aaron, a childhood hero of his, through his friendship with Aaron’s son, Lary Aaron. The two played baseball together at Florida A&M University.
At the City Council meeting, Gaffney took the unusual step of calling Lary Aaron and holding the phone up to his microphone so the baseball great’s son could address the council.
“What you are doing for my father today is truly an honor and it’s a God’s blessing,” Lary Aaron said. “I love what you’re doing, and it’s got me emotional, because he’s not here now. I’d like to thank all of you for what you have done for my father.”
The field, which is located at 1701 Myrtle Ave. N. near 8th Street in Jacksonville’s Durkeeville neighborhood, will officially be known as the “Henry L. Aaron Field at J.P. Small Memorial Park Stadium.”
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.