Earlier this year he spent a weekend signing autographs at a card show in Miami, for which he was paid about $25,000. He met up with Paul Casanova, the player who brought him his meals during the Chase. The old catcher had fallen on some hard times. When Aaron left Miami, he left the $25,000 with Casanova.
The letters still come in bagfuls to the CNN Center in Atlanta, to the offices of the Braves, to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. They begin, "Dear Hank Aaron" or "Dear Home Run King." The King is only human, so he reads them.
Dear Hank Aaron:
Thanks for all the great years you had with the Braves. You were my Dad's favorite player.
Dear Hank Aaron:
I play little league, and you are my most favorite baseball player.
While Aaron is cynical about autograph hounds—"Collectors just out to make money," he says—the children who write to him touch him deeply, and he signs his name for them all.
Recently the grandmother of an Alabama boy wrote asking Aaron to call the child. He was dying of leukemia. Aaron phoned him in the hospital, but the boy was in isolation for bone-marrow treatments. The boy later died, and Aaron sent a $1,500 check to his family to help cover expenses.
But Aaron still receives other kinds of letters, too:
Mr. Henry (Hank) Aaron,
You are bitter and upset because you were not the first nigger manager. All you black bastards do is complain and demand. Now I know why they lynched you people in the south.
Mr. Hank Aaron,
...I think Mr. Aaron in all fairness you should make a statement...that you had more at bats than Babe Ruth, after all Babe Ruth was a super great baseball player and is a credit to the white race.
These are the letters he remembers most, the ones he reads after he has been subjected to behavior that is rude or racist. At a ball game seven or eight years ago, Aaron says, a woman asked him for his autograph. "I'm sorry, ma'am," he said. "I'm busy watching one of my pitchers. When I'm all done, I'll be happy to give you an autograph." When Aaron went over to the woman's box and offered his signature, she coldly declined it.