ESPN Gave Fans a Baseball History Lesson Tuesday Night
For all of its warts--Major League Baseball is the one professional sport that can wax nostalgic and provide absolutely captivating stories.
Tuesday night, ESPN ran the Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets game as its National Game of the Night.
And instead of doing a traditional broadcast, talking the game, strategy, what happened etc., the Producers did something different. Dramatically different.
Instead of doing play-by-play, the broadcast team welcomed Baseball Hall-of-Famer and Braves Vice President Hank Aaron to the broadcast booth and provided viewers and listeners an absolute treat. The "Hank Aaron Tribute Special" was arguably the best baseball broadcast of 2018.
For over an hour, the 3-man booth (Dave Flemming, Tim Kurkjian and Eduardo Perez) peppered Aaron with questions and prompted often lengthy and humorous stories from the 84-year old living legend and it was totally captivating.
Aaron told stories--often unheard by many and ESPN's research team produced some historical items and tidbits that had me totally locked in. They found a scouting letter from the New York Yankees back in the early 1950's proclaiming Aaron had the potential to be the next Ted Williams, the found a quote from Williams expressing his admiration and amazement The Hammer could hit the ball the way he did off his front foot.
The stories went on and on for nearly 6-innings. Footnotes to baseball history. Interviews with Willie Mays and other contemporaries. A brief piece on the history of Aaron's hometown Mobile, Alabama and its place in baseball history. (Look the Mobile info up, its amazing how many great players are from there)....
Basketball has its contemporary "Pop-Culture" moments and football is often the "Working Man's" sport---but neither is as reverential or has the ability to stop a fan in their tracks when talking about history like baseball can.
Many of us who've been involved in the Atlanta sports scene over the years have met Aaron and he's really as captivating to talk to as he was on TV Tuesday night. There were only a handful of people in my 20-years working in Sports that I was awestruck meeting and speaking to. Getting to interview Hank at the Atlanta Sports Awards in 2008 was for me one of those moments.
For one night---a Broadcaster who often forgets and seemingly tries to distance itself from its past brought a living, breathing baseball historian onto the screen and provided at least for me and apparently several million others---one of the most memorable game broadcasts we will see during a regular baseball season for a long, long time.....
*Side note: The Braves won the game 8-2*