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Kentucky family's connection to Hank Aaron

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Posted at 10:39 PM, Jan 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-23 23:21:05-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Friday, baseball great Hank Aaron passed away at age 86.

The longtime Atlanta Brave cemented his place in history long ago, best known for breaking Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974.

The year before, when he was approaching the record, he received so many death threats he said he was afraid he wouldn't live to see the following season.

He received racist letters and taunts at almost every ballpark.

But many Americans were watching in awe of Hank's achievements, especially James Smith.

Smith lived in Louisa, Kentucky, and in the summer of 1973, he wrote a letter to Aaron cheering him on.

Smith passed away in 2006 but his son, Sherrill, says his family was blown away when Aaron wrote them back.

"I remember him telling us and mom that he was writing him. I just really wish we had his letter to go with the letter he got back," said Smith.

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Letter provided by Sherrill Smith

The letter Aaron wrote reads, "It is very heartwarming to know that you are in my corner. I will always be grateful for the interest you have shown in me. As the so-called 'countdown' begins, please be assured I will try to live up to the expectations of my friends."

He did that and so much more. Sherrill still treasures the letter, especially with Aaron's passing. It reminds him just how big of an impact he had on and off the field.

"It's also special the way Mr. Hank Aaron carried himself and was a role model for all of us," said Smith.

Hank Aaron did go on to break the home run record in 1974. It stood until 2007 when Barry Bonds surpassed 755 home runs.