Calvin Wardlaw proudly shows off personalized photo from Hank Aaron, and vividly recalls racial remarks and death threats Aaron faced while Wardlaw, then an Atlanta detective, served as bodyguard.
...Calvin Wardlaw proudly shows off personalized photo from Hank Aaron, and vividly recalls racial remarks and death threats Aaron faced while Wardlaw, then an Atlanta detective, served as bodyguard.
When it was over, when the great Henry Aaron had hit No.715 and passed Babe Ruth at old Fulton County Stadium in the spring of 1974, Calvin Wardlaw
talked about the "jubilation" at home plate.
At home plate that night, April 8 of 1974, Calvin Wardlaw
said to Aaron, "I'm glad it's over."
told him not to worry, that he
had the ball.
"Even though it was only about baseball," Wardlaw
said."About a game."
Aaron began to get vile letters and some of them were death threats and so the Braves and the people running Fulton County Stadium hired a detective like Calvin Wardlaw
, off the south side of Atlanta, to literally watch Aaron's back.
"We'd sit out there in right field," Wardlaw
said."All the home games till the end of the '73 season."
took some time off and went to West Palm Beach and spring training with Aaron in '74, and finally the big night arrived in April, and Calvin Wardlaw
was in a box with Billye Aaron, Hank's wife, when the pitch that Al Downing threw went over the fence and into the history of baseball and the country.Wardlaw
had turned to Billye Aaron and said, "He's gonna do it this time," and now Billye Aaron's husband had done just that, and the ball had cleared the fence, and Billye Aaron was hugging Calvin Wardlaw
around his neck as Wardlaw
watched helplessly while those two young guys came out of the stands and ran right up to Aaron and around the bases with him.
Nobody stopping them while the .38 that Wardlaw
had carried with him for months stayed in the binocular case where he
always kept it.
"People asked me afterward, 'Where were you for the big moment, Calvin?'" Wardlaw
, now retired, was saying Friday afternoon from Atlanta.
Talk to Calvin Wardlaw
saw the same mail Aaron did back in those days, back in another time in baseball and America, and sometimes he
saw even more of that.Sometimes they'd be in the car, Wardlaw driving Aaron home after a Braves home game, and some of the new mail that had come in just that day would spill out of Wardlaw's bag.Aaron would ask what it was and Wardlaw would say, "Just some more bull---- mail you're not interested in." Then the mail would be passed on to the local FBI, and another threat to Aaron would be assessed.
"Like the time the one hate letter came in with a return address on it," Calvin Wardlaw
sat out in right field at the start.He
would either follow Aaron home, make sure the car was safely in the Aarons' carport, or drive him home himself.That spring of '74, he
stayed at the same Ramada in West Palm that housed a lot of Braves players, stayed in a room registered in Aaron's name while Aaron himself lived in a rented condominium about a mile away.
"Got some interesting calls there, too," Wardlaw
There was a pause and then Wardlaw
said, "Hank did it all with his God-given talent."
got a lake behind his
house and back in the day, I put a couple of catfish out there," Wardlaw
said."And now he
says there's so many I got to come over and protect him from them."Wardlaw
was asked finally if he
had much interest in watching Bonds hit No.756.
"If I'm watching TV that night, I'll watch it," he
There was one more pause at his
end of the line, a long one, and then Calvin Wardlaw
said, "I had my history."