The University of Wisconsin Press

Sports / Biography / African American Interest

A Summer Up North
Henry Aaron and the Legend of Eau Claire Baseball
Jerry Poling
Foreword by Allan H. (Bud) Selig

A phenom, a hero, a legend

June 12, 1952—only a local sportswriter showed up at the Eau Claire airport to greet a newly signed eighteen-year-old shortstop from Alabama toting a cardboard suitcase. "I was scared as hell," said Henry Aaron, recalling his arrival as the new recruit on the city's Class C minor league baseball team.

Forty-two years later, as Aaron approached the stadium where the Eau Claire Bears once played, an estimated five thousand people surrounded a newly raised bronze statue of a young "Hank" Aaron at bat. "I had goosebumps," he said later. "A lot of things happened to me in my twenty-three years as a ballplayer, but nothing touched me more than that day in Eau Claire." For the people of Eau Claire, Aaron's summer two years before his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Braves symbolizes a magical time, when baseball fans in a small city in northern Wisconsin could live a part of the dream.

"Jerry Poling's very informative book about Aaron's first year in the minors in Eau Claire—a great baseball training ground for many Braves players—helped me understand how Henry Aaron bridged the cultural divide between growing up in the segregated South and playing in the North. Henry Aaron was one of the most disciplined athletes, mentally and physically, I ever knew. He also is one of the greatest people I have ever had the good fortune to know. A Summer Up North will help you appreciate why."—Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Baseball

Jerry Poling is the news-wire editor and a columnist for the Eau Claire Leader Telegram. He is the author of Downfield: Untold Stories of the Green Bay Packers.

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A Summer Up North is illustrated with old photos of Hank Aaron and the Eau Clarie Bears scoreboard.

October 2002
LC: 2002003833 GV
216 pp.    6 x 9    30 b/w photos

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Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-18184-0
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"Poling's knowledge of Eau Claire, and his personal involvement with the story, add to the book's vividness and charm. He's uncovered terrific material about that first year, about Henry Aaron, and the story that ends the book is simply stunning. Poling is a fine journalist, an excellent writer, and a gifted storyteller."
—Warren Goldstein, author of Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball

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Updated November 8, 2011

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