Aaron joins Doyle in campaign stop

Adrian Northrup

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has been a fan of baseball legend Hank Aaron for most of his life. On Thursday, democratic supporters and baseball fans alike saw that the reverence goes both ways.

“I’m trying to let people know my concerns go past hitting home runs,” said Major League Baseball’s all-time career home run leader Aaron, who first played on a mixed-race team in Eau Claire in 1952.

Doyle and Aaron traded compliments at Carson Park in one of a series of campaign stops in which they highlighted their similar goals.
Doyle emphasized his concerns about properly funding education, making health care more accessible and creating more better-paying jobs in the state.

Congressman Mark Green, Doyle’s Republican challenger, has made lowering the tax burden in the state to create a more favorable business climate a large tenet of his campaign. He’s also criticized Doyle and the governor-appointed Board of Regents for the increasing cost of education.

But for much of the event, politics took a backseat to Doyle’s admiration for Aaron.

“You know when you were a kid with one hero?” Doyle asked the crowd, wielding his elementary school binder with Aaron’s name scrawled across it. “Well, I’m standing next to mine.”

Aaron’s efforts to push for minority involvement in the business-side of baseball and his work with children, Doyle said, show he is much more than a good baseball player.

“Hank Aaron doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody,” Doyle said after the event. “This is a guy who used his fame . to help people.”

Aaron reciprocated, saying he believes Doyle’s policies best ensure a healthy future for Wisconsin’s children.

“We share a lot of the same goals,” Aaron said.

Still, Thursday’s event remained free of political specifics as the friendly exchange elicited excitement from a crowd that seemed supportive of Doyle but jubilant to see Aaron.

“It was definitely a little bit of both,” geography professor Tim Bawden said in between attempts to usher his son toward Aaron. “I got to see the two of them together and this was a great experience.”
Senior Eric Schofield, an education major and member of the UW-Eau Claire club baseball team, agreed.

“I was pretty excited to see both of them,” he said.

Kind words also befell the crowd as Aaron spoke fondly of Eau Claire – a community that he said showed him hospitality and respect at the beginning of his career before he went on to fame with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

“So many wonderful things have happened to me,” Aaron said. “But it all started right here.”