Atlanta celebrates a World Series title – and the legacy and influence of Hank Aaron

A fan holds a sign remembering Hank Aaron as the Braves departed for Houston to start the 2021 World Series.

Emil Moffatt/WABE News

After a brief playing career as a catcher in the minor leagues, Brian Snitker was hired to work for the Braves.

The person who gave him that job as an instructor in the minor leagues was team executive Hank Aaron. Snitker says the Hall of Fame slugger eventually became a trusted mentor.

“He’d call every now and then,” said Snitker. “I was on the phone with a buddy of mine and it came through and I said ‘I think I’m going to put you on hold here, Hank Aaron’s calling me’.”

Forty years after Aaron made the hire, Snitker managed the Braves to their second World Series title in Atlanta.

The city is set to celebrate the championship Friday with a parade through downtown and a rally to follow at Truist Park. The focus will be on this year’s team,  but the lasting influence of the Braves’ most legendary star can still be felt.

Braves manager Brian Snitker, hired by Hank Aaron for a front office job 40 years ago, led the Braves to a World Series title this year. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

The championship came nine months after Hammerin’ Hank died at the age of 86.

The Braves’ honored Aaron’s widow Billye and several members of the Aaron family on the field before Game 3 of the World Series, a moment that Snitker treasures.

“You know, I got to hug Billye, you know…” said Snitker, pausing briefly to collect himself. “And tell her much I missed Hank.”

Braves’ third baseman Austin Riley recalled the time he got to meet Aaron.

“Being able to meet him in person and spend a little time with him and shake his hands, it’s one of those moments that gives you chill bumps,” Riley said. “He’s done so much for this game, even outside of baseball.”

The Aaron’s daughter, Ceci told WABE’s “Closer Look” this week that the Braves’ championship means a lot to her mother.

“She started crying because she wishes daddy was here but she’s thrilled that the Braves have won the World Series,” said Aaron.

All season, the Braves played with Aaron’s number 44 stitched to the back of their caps and painted on the outfield grass at Truist Park.

Hank Aaron’s uniform number 44 has been painted on the outfield grass at Truist Park since the start of the 2021 season. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

The same streets in downtown Atlanta where the city welcomed Hank Aaron and the Braves with a parade 55 years ago host a second World Series celebration Friday.

Ceci Aaron says the tributes and the World Series title would have meant a lot to her father.

“Because I know he is overjoyed and jubilant, just knowing that his team won another championship,” she said.