Hank Aaron found life after baseball in West Palm Beach

Baseball first brought him to city, but he liked it so much, he stuck around for awhile
Hank Aaron superimposed over bird's eye view of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium
Posted at 4:22 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 17:20:39-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hank Aaron, the baseball legend and one-time home run king who once spent his springs in West Palm Beach, died Friday at the age of 86.

The Atlanta Braves said "Hammerin' Hank" died peacefully in his sleep. No cause was given.

Long before West Palm Beach was the spring training home to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, the city hosted the Braves and Montreal Expos at the now-defunct West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium.

It's also where Aaron spent 12 consecutive springs throughout his 23-year Major League Baseball career.

West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium circa 1960s
West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium, pictured here in the 1960s, was the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos.

Aaron obviously felt at home in West Palm Beach, so much so that he decided to purchase one in the city in 2002. Property records show that he paid $461,250 for the home at 2029 Embassy Drive, which he later sold.

The Hall of Fame slugger was hardly a hermit during his time in West Palm Beach, hosting a golf tournament that helped underprivileged children, and he worked with then-Mayor Lois Frankel, who now serves in Congress and whose district includes the city, to revitalize Coleman Park.

"Hank Aaron's legacy goes beyond baseball, and he will continue to serve as an inspiration to countless Americans," Frankel said in a statement. "He is a hero and role model to so many for his legendary skill and perseverance in the face of vitriolic racism. He was dedicated to giving back to his community and providing support for young people to achieve their dreams right here in Palm Beach County. My heart goes out to his loved ones."

WPTV spoke with Aaron as recently as 2016, when his flight to Atlanta was delayed because of a power outage at Palm Beach International Airport.

Aaron said he was forced to wait more than two hours at the airport but acknowledged there's "nothing you can do about it."

"Mother nature takes its course," he said at the time.

The electricity seemed to have been restored as former WPTV reporter Jacqulyn Powell was interviewing him.

"You just gave us good luck," he told her.

Before a sellout crowd and a national television audience in Atlanta, Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record with No. 715 off a pitch from Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, 1974.

Aaron finished his career in 1976 with 755 home runs, a record that stood for 33 years until it was surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007.

The 1957 National League MVP was the NL's home run and RBI leader on four different occasions and was a three-time Gold Glove Award recipient.

Aaron still holds the MLB records for most career RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477).

Even though he sold his West Palm Beach property more than a decade ago, Aaron's lasting legacy can be seen by motorists every day.

Hank Aaron Drive sign in West Palm Beach
A sign along Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard directs motorists toward Hank Aaron Drive, Jan. 22, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. The baseball legend died Friday at the age of 86.

A stretch of roadway, just off Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard near the Home Depot, where Municipal Stadium once stood, is still known as Hank Aaron Drive.