Hank Aaron, Lee Elder shared common threads

Lee Elder accepts the applause of the patrons during his introduction at the ceremonial tee shot to begin the Masters Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.
Lee Elder accepts the applause of the patrons during his introduction at the ceremonial tee shot to begin the Masters Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

AUGUSTA – Hank Aaron and Lee Elder had a lot in common.

The two Black sports icons discussed the similarities of their careers and lives often, including not long before Aaron died in January. Aaron faced immense pressure and personal toll as he pursued baseball’s home run record, which he broke 47 years ago Thursday with his 715th to break Babe Ruth’s long-standing mark. Elder was the first Black player to compete in the Masters, 46 years ago this week.

Elder said he was in Aaron’s office not long ago. They discussed Milwaukee, where Elder won a PGA Tour tournament and Aaron hit plenty of home runs at the city’s County Stadium.

“We talked about several things that wasn’t anything as far as doing anything, but about our sports, our particular sport, and the involvement that we felt that we could help other young Blacks that was coming up behind us, which they both did,” Elder said Thursday after he took part in the ceremonial tee shot to open the 2021 Masters. “And I certainly hope that the things that I have done have inspired a lot of young Black players and they will continue on with it.”

ExplorePhotos: Lee Elder honored at the Masters

Elder hosted many of Aaron’s charity golf tournaments at Chateau Elan. He and Aaron remained close as Elder played golf in Atlanta quite a bit while living in Florida.

Elder spent part of his life in Los Angeles and also got to know fellow Black icon Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. He played golf with the Robinson several times. However, it was Aaron, closer to his age and era, with whom he developed a strong relationship.

“They were both great men,” Elder said.

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