Henry Aaron reflects on his life at 80

Braves Hall of Famer Henry Aaron turns 80 on Feb. 5. His remarkable contributions to the nation's culture will be celebrated in Washington with a gala and an induction in to a different Hall of Fame - the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

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Braves Hall of Famer Henry Aaron turns 80 on Feb. 5. His remarkable contributions to the nation's culture will be celebrated in Washington with a gala and an induction in to a different Hall of Fame - the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt of an interview Braves Hall of Famer Henry Aaron gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the eve of his 80th birthday. The complete story is available on myajc.com.

Henry Aaron turns 80 on Wednesday, a long life now divided neatly in half by the 40 years building to home run No. 715 and the 40 years spent in service to that epic swing.

Time to celebrate the fully experienced life, one that has enjoyed equal meaning on both sides of the foul pole.

Aaron’s 80th will not pass quietly. In Washington this week, baseball’s all-natural home-run king will be honored at a Friday night dinner thrown by his buddy, Commissioner Bud Selig. On Saturday, he and his likeness will be celebrated at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

The artist who did this and another portrait of Aaron to go in the Baseball Hall of Fame was Atlanta’s Ross Rossin.

Space in that hall is reserved not only for those who can hit the fastball, but those who have, on a grander scale, influenced a nation’s culture. The Hammer did his share of societal shaping with a 33-ounce piece of sculpted ash.

Before leaving for D.C., Aaron sat for an interview in the southwest Atlanta home he has been in since 1974. What emerged was another portrait of an octogenarian sporting icon at ease with the sum of his life.

GENERAL HEALTH

Aaron doesn’t use the tennis court at his home anymore, and in fact jokes about turning it into a garden. Doesn’t fish the five-acre pond out back of the house. But otherwise, “I feel good, I really do,” he said.

THE BRAVES' MOVE TO COBB COUNTY

He said he shed a tear when Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was imploded. He’ll be saddened as well when the Braves bug out of Turner Field.

“I never played baseball in that park, but it seems I’m connected to it somehow,” Aaron said.

THE BURDEN OF NO. 715

Letters that deserved no more than the flame of the fireplace or the muck of the landfill are boxed in Aaron’s attic. He kept some of the good ones, too, the ones that urged him up and over Ruth’s record.

Not that Aaron even glances at any of the old correspondence anymore. He just can’t throw it out.

Forty years removed from the moment, Aaron still wishes he could have savored it more.

Explore>> To read Aaron's entire interview with Hank Aaron, where he addresses his baseball legacy and the sport's steroid era, visit myajc.com.