On June 24, 1952, about 3,500 Grand Forks baseball fans at Municipal Ballpark witnessed greatness, even if they didn't know at the time that the 18-year-old shortstop batting sixth for the Eau Claire Bears would later hold Major League Baseball's all-time home runs record for more than 30 years.
Baseball legend Hank Aaron, who died last week at the age of 86, played in a three-game series in Grand Forks that late June weekend and continued to torment Grand Forks Chiefs pitching all summer on his way to Northern League Rookie of the Year honors.
The Grand Forks Chiefs were a minor league baseball program, which began in 1934 and played until 1964, with a couple of breaks in that stretch.
The Chiefs were a minor league affiliate of a handful of Major League teams in those years. Grand Forks was a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate in the summer of 1952.
Municipal was located at 1124 Demers Avenue, now the site of the Central Fire Station.
Aaron, nicknamed 'Hammerin' Hank', played 23 seasons of Major League Baseball from 1954 to 1976, primarily with the Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves.
His 755 career home runs broke the MLB record of Babe Ruth and the record wasn't broken until Barry Bonds did so in 2007.
On June 14, 1952, Aaron was signed by the Eau Claire (Wis.) Bears for $350 a month. Aaron had been playing with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues before joining Eau Claire, where he spent just one season before joining the Braves' Class A-affiliate in Jacksonville.
On June 24, Aaron batted sixth for Eau Claire and went 2-for-4 against the Chiefs with a run and a stolen base against Grand Forks pitcher Ed Sandy. The Bears beat the Chiefs 9-1 as Grand Forks dropped into last place in the league.
The 1952 season, under the direction of coach Eddie Murphy, was one of Grand Forks' worst as the Chiefs finished eighth in the league and went 38-86.
The Bears and Chiefs played a doubleheader on June 25, splitting the games with a 2-1 Grand Forks win and a 3-2 Eau Claire win.
Aaron was 2-for-3 with a run and RBI in Game 1, then went 2-for-3 in Game 2. Aaron scored the key run in the Eau Claire win off Grand Forks pitcher Stan Burkholder.
The Chiefs traveled to Eau Claire and the July 1 Grand Forks Herald newspaper showed Aaron went 3-for-5 with a home run in an 11-6 Bears win to give the Chiefs a sixth-consecutive loss.
In what was likely Aaron's last visit to Grand Forks -- on July 28, 1952 -- Aaron went 3-for-6 with four runs and a home run in a 26-3 Bears win over the Chiefs.
Grand Forks Herald sports reporter Loel Schrader was harsh on the home team, writing "Heavy shelling continued at the local artillery range Monday night as the Eau Claire Bears clobbered the Grand Forks Chiefs 26-3."
Schrader went on to say "Eau Claire's victory was the most lopsided in this and several Northern League seasons."
It was revenge for the Bears, who lost 24-10 and 21-2 to the Chiefs in the previous year's playoffs.
The Herald reported "about 500 fans were on hand at the outset of the game but by the ninth the gathering had thinned out to 50 or 60."