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Hank Aaron signed his first professional contract in Winston-Salem

Hank Aaron signed his first professional contract in Winston-Salem

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The baseball great and one-time home run king Hank Aaron has died. The Atlanta Braves said he died peacefully in his sleep early Friday.

Yes, Hank Aaron did sign his first professional contract at the Winston-Salem train station.

According to his autobiography "Hank Aaron: A Biography," he signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the old Negro American League on Nov. 20, 1951.

Bill Slack, a legendary manager of the Winston-Salem Red Sox who started in the late 1960s and coached them in the '70s and '80s, told the Winston-Salem Journal in 2008 about Aaron’s first professional contract and where he signed it.

Slack's number was retired years ago and was displayed on the outfield wall of the old Ernie Shore Field, now Wake Forest’s home ballpark.

Aaron, who was working for the Atlanta Braves as the team’s director of minor leagues, would often come to Winston-Salem to scout players in the 1980s such as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and Mark Wohlers.

Slack told Dan Collins of the Journal in 2008 that he once asked Aaron about his scariest moment in his life in baseball.

"I was thinking he was going to say The Ku Klux Klan were running after me,"' Slack said in 2008. "He would tell you about that stuff.

"He said, ‘Probably as scary a moment as I had was when I was 17. My momma put me on the train in Mobile, Alabama, and it was going to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She packed me a big brown bag of sandwiches and stuff to eat and she put me on this seat right here and said, ‘Don't you get off of this seat until you get to Winston-Salem, and there will be somebody there to meet you.'

5/17/70: Hank Aaron singles for the 3,000th hit of his Major League career

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"That's when he joined the Indianapolis Clowns."

The Clowns were in Winston-Salem at the time, so that's why Aaron's mother put him on the train.

Aaron started his professional career after signing that contract with the Clowns.

In his autobiography, Aaron said he made $200 a month from the Clowns as their shortstop. He soon received offers to play in the major leagues from the New York Giants and the Boston Braves. He signed with the Braves, who moved to Milwaukee beginning with the 1953 season then to Atlanta to start the 1966 season.




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