Being Hank Aaron, Just For a Moment, Beyond that Forsythia

Image of Charlie Thompson and Hank Aaron baseball trading card.
Charlie Thompson with his 1968 Topps Hank Aaron card.    

It was 1968, and I was an 11-year-old white boy in Appalachian Virginia imagining I was Hank Aaron. Home from school for the summer, a small group of us gathered for mornings in our backyard to play Whiffle ball — with a plastic bat and ball, and bases made from scraps of wood. A forsythia hedge, some 75 feet from the back steps where we batted, was the outfield fence. The innovation we came up with was to pretend to be major league players, reading stats and biographical facts about our favorite players from their baseball cards. That summer I spent all my allowance on Topps cards, which came five to a pack with a piece of flat bubblegum. I kept my cards in a shoe box with rubber bands around each team. The more cards I had, the better lineup I could put on the field.  Read more.