Northwest baseball fans share memories of legendary player, Hank Aaron

While Hank Aaron is being remembered all over the country, his impact here in the Northwest can be felt too. It goes way beyond the baseball field. 

On Friday, Hank Aaron passed away at the age of 86. His numbers on the baseball field, remain some of the highest in the game. 3,771 hits, three Gold Gloves, 25 All-Star game appearances, and of course 755 home runs. 

"He was a guy that my father and I, we went out of our way to see when the Braves would come to town when I was growing up in Philly," said Mariners play-by-play announcer Dave Sims.

Sims has interviewed and met his share of legends during his storied career in broadcasting. He shared the time he met Hank Aaron for his radio show at WNBC in New York.

According to Sims, he was trying to catch Aaron after an appearance on the David Letterman Show.

"I said, Mr. Aaron, Dave Sims,  I do a talk show downstairs. I would love if you can give me two minutes, five minutes. He said, 'yeah Dave sure, no problem.' He gave me 25 minutes. It was unbelievable," said Sims.

From a historical perspective, Aaron's accomplishments are made even more significant, knowing the hate he received off the field. 

"They talk about the millions of pieces of mail that he received that was full of hate, and yet, he went out, performed at the highest level in one of the toughest sports on the planet," Sims said.

According to Sims, he is thankful for players like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Hank Aaron who paved the way, even for him to be a broadcaster.

"I know for me, being one of the few black play-by-play guys in the history of Major League Baseball, I know I stand on his shoulders. And every time I see those guys, I thank them," Sims said. "He was born in the 30's. So, he's been through the Depression, World War II, Korean War, Jim Crow, segregation. They made it a hell of a lot easier for me." 

Even for younger coaches like Wes Long, president and director of coaching at City Baseball in Seattle, Hank Aaron's legacy is something he hopes to instill to his players. 

"It's something that I try to impose on my guys. Act like you've been there before, but when things get tough just continue to go," said Long. 

Long is also an assistant baseball coach at Seattle University. So the age range of players he interacts with goes from 8-years-old to 22-years-old, he said.

Long also grew up in Auburn, Alabama about 90 miles from Atlanta. He said his father had a big influence on him teaching about the legends of the game.

"Down there, he (Aaron) was just as big of a name in Braves country as it gets," he said. "To be able to overcome the obstacles and the mental grit and fortitude to play everyday with hate ail coming in, and the pressure on top of it too."

Attorney and baseball historian Lyle Wilson wrote a book in 1997 that documented African-American baseball in the Northwest. The book is titled "Sunday Afternoon's at Garfield Park: Seattle's Black Baseball Teams 1911-1951."

For Wilson, Aaron's legacy is imprinted.

"Here and across the country, revered for sure," he said. 

Players like Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella and Hank Aaron were childhood favorites for Wilson.

"They were really emerging on the scene when I was a youngster, Heroes," said Wilson.

Heroes live on through baseball fans all over the world.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also sent out a Tweet today that reads in part: "Hank... my dad and Grandfather raved about you. Thanks for changing the game of baseball... but more importantly thanks for bringing America together through love in a time of such great hate. Heaven is a good place. #RIPHankAaron"

And Seattle Mariners star outfielder Kyle Lewis posted on Instagram saying: "RIP Mr. Hank Aaron. You have left a legacy that wil l live on forever."