Atlanta Braves Morning Chop – Aaron/EYjr/Stars&Strikes

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Future of Hank Aaron statue unclear as Braves plan for move


ATLANTA (AP) — It was probably the world’s only “pay-as-you-go statue,” Bob Hope — a local marketing guru, not the famous comedian — likes to joke. Eight years after Braves right-fielder Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth‘s home-run record in 1974, Hope decided to form a nonprofit group dedicated to erecting a monument to the baseball legend. As a symbolic gesture of gratitude, the nonprofit deemed, it should be paid for by Aaron’s fans.

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Problem was, Hope now says, “I don’t think I realized how many fans it took to raise the money.” Organizers cobbled together checks and coins. Managed to get The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to urge and match donations. In the end, a larger-than-life statue was erected at the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1982, and later moved to Turner Field.

So, now that the Braves are headed to the suburbs, what should become of this gesture of gratitude, paid for largely by Atlantans? Specifically, who owns it, and where will it go when the team leaves town?

Well, that all depends on whom you ask.

Ask the Braves, and the answer is clear: They do. And it’s going to SunTrust Park when the team does in 2017.

But talk to the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, which oversees Turner Field, and the ownership question becomes a bit murkier.

Hope, who worked in the Braves’ marketing department when Aaron broke Ruth’s record, believes the statue was donated to the AFCRA when it was dedicated. The folks there say they are in the early stages of itemizing the ball field’s monuments and plan to look into the issue later this year.

As far as those interviewed for this story know, there’s little or no paperwork that spells out ownership of Aaron’s bronze statue. Without a clear answer, many are looking to Aaron for guidance on whether the statue should stay or go.

In an interview this week, the baseball great says he’s conflicted.

“On one hand, I think the statue should be wherever the baseball park is, wherever the Braves are playing,” Aaron says. “After all, I played with the Braves.”

But on the other, he continues, the statue was paid for by fans — not the team. “So if you had to think about it, it all belongs to Atlanta, to the people of Atlanta.”

[more at the story link]