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A Summer Up North

Henry Aaron and the Legend of Eau Claire Baseball

Jerry Poling

Publication Year: 2002

June 12, 1952—only a local sportswriter showed up at the Eau Claire airport to greet a newly signed eighteen-year-old shortstop from Alabama toting a cardboard suitcase. "I was scared as hell," said Henry Aaron, recalling his arrival as the new recruit on the city’s Class C minor league baseball team.
Forty-two years later, as Aaron approached the stadium where the Eau Claire Bears once played, an estimated five thousand people surrounded a newly raised bronze statue of a young "Hank" Aaron at bat. "I had goosebumps," he said later. "A lot of things happened to me in my twenty-three years as a ballplayer, but nothing touched me more than that day in Eau Claire." For the people of Eau Claire, Aaron’s summer two years before his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Braves symbolizes a magical time, when baseball fans in a small city in northern Wisconsin could live a part of the dream.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

For nearly fifty years, I have been privileged to be Henry Aaron's friend and one of his biggest fans. I watched him break into the majors in Milwaukee in 1954, sold him his first car, cheered him when he led the Braves to the 1957 World Series title, and proudly watched him break Babe...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Prologue

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pp. xv-xxii

Much of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was buzzing on August 17, 1994. Henry Aaron was on his way back to the city to unveil a bronze statue of himself. The local media previewed his return with such headlines as "Hammerin' Hank's Homecoming" and with live TV broadcasts in front of old...

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Chapter 1: North to the Northern League

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pp. 3-63

It's a long way from down the bay, as they say on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama, to the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In 1952, the year he turned eighteen, Henry Aaron made a round trip and realized one thing: He was good enough to play pro baseball. ...

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Chapter 2: Eau Claire Baseball

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pp. 65-100

The Bears' pennant hopes disappeared late in the 1952 season along with Aaron's hopes for the batting crown. When the players turned in their uniforms and scattered and Carson Park stadium was shut down for another winter, the summer of 1952 appeared to be just another season in...

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Chapter 3: On the Road in the Northern League

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pp. 101-140

When Henry Aaron, Joe Torre, and legions of other Eau Claire minor leaguers weren't playing at Carson Park, they were crisscrossing northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and even parts of Canada—the parts with roads—to play in the Northern League's other ballparks. ...

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Chapter 4: Statuesque

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pp. 141-174

Aaron's return for the statue dedication at Carson Park in 1994 was his third visit to Eau Claire after he left in 1952.
His first return visit was for a banquet on January 23, 1962, with Milwaukee Braves teammate Joe Torre. By then, Aaron was a national baseball hero. ...

Bibliography

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pp. 177-178

Index

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pp. 179-187


E-ISBN-13: 9780299181833
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299181840

Publication Year: 2002