Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and More Pay Respect to Hank Aaron at Late Baseball Legend's Funeral
"I wasn't with Hank Aaron five minutes before I thought to myself, 'I'm gonna love this guy for the rest of my life,' " Clinton said
Friends and family of Hank Aaron — including prominent figures from sports legends to former presidents — gathered on Wednesday to honor the baseball icon's life.
The Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Braves player died on Friday at his home in Atlanta. He was 86.
"It's customary on occasions like this to bemoan the fact that we have lost something," former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young said during the service. "I'm here to testify that Hank hasn't gone nowhere."
Young continued, "He is grafted in the minds and the hearts of everybody here and everybody looking all around the world."
The funeral — which was live-streamed — featured stories from throughout Aaron's life and career, from those who knew him best including former Major league Baseball commissioner Bug Selig and former president Bill Clinton.
Selig said one of his favorite memories was watching Aaron hit the home run on Sept. 23, 1957, that sent the then-Milwaukee Braves to the World Series.
Selig said he remembered watching as Aaron's teammates carry him off the field during the celebration.
"We'll always be grateful to you for showing all of us how to chase our dreams," he said.
Clinton, 74, recalled getting a television in his family home in 1957 just in time for that year's baseball season, when Aaron won MLB MVP and the Braves won the World Series.
"It was a blessing," he said of watching Aaron play. "But you don't have to be a baseball fan to know that, of all the great baseball players who have played, no one was as consistently great for as long."
Clinton said he finally met Aaron in 1992 while he was running for president. Aaron endorsed him on a campaign stop in Atlanta and after their meeting, the two became friends.
The 42nd president said he attended 65th and 75th birthday celebrations for Aaron, and the Clintons also hosted Aaron and his wife at the White House.
"I wasn't with Hank Aaron five minutes before I thought to myself, 'I'm gonna love this guy for the rest of my life,' " Clinton said.
He concluded, "His whole life was a home run, and now he has rounded the bases."
Clinton wasn't the only former president to honor Aaron at the funeral service.
Former President Jimmy Carter also paid tribute to Aaron through a video message.
"Hank Aaron has been a friend of mine for a long time," Carter, 96, said in the video tribute, adding that they used to take trips together with Carter's younger brother, Billy.
The 39th president said he cherished memories of watching Aaron play, including the night he scored his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record.
"We've lost a good friend and a great athlete," Carter said.