Great piece by Howard Bryant on the role of professional sports in a changing Atlanta:
When the Braves began preparations to move south, cultivating Henry Aaron was a key. C. Miles Smith, president of the local NAACP, met with Henry, asking him to soften his rhetoric about not wanting to return to the South. Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League, wrote personal letters to Henry, asking him to give the South a second chance and saying that his endorsement of Atlanta would help change attitudes.
Then Aaron met King, who told him success in Atlanta would be as important as any protest.
“Martin was a big baseball fan. We would have our meetings, dealing with strategies for the movement, and during our breaks we would all go out and play. We played softball. Martin used to play second or third base, and he loved to hit,” Young recalled.
In one of their earliest meetings, Aaron told King that he was embarrassed that he wasn’t more publicly visible in the front lines of the movement, Young said. “We told him not to worry. When you talked to Henry Aaron, you knew how he felt about civil rights. We told him just to keep hitting that ball. That was his job.”
- Aaron key to bringing Civil Rights Game to ATL (mlb.mlb.com)