Hank Aaron’s legacy lives on in letters exchanged with late Johnston woman

Northwest

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) -— Despite being a famous athlete, Hall of Famer Hank Aaron always made time to write to his fans, including one of his biggest supporters in the littlest state.

For the late Ann Botelho, baseball was everything.

“She was a huge sports fan, along with my grandfather, and they were following the [Atlanta] Braves from the time they were in Boston and then when they moved to Atlanta,” Botelho’s grandson David Zarella said.

Since cable television didn’t exist yet, Botelho followed Aaron’s career by reading the newspaper

When it came to home runs, Aaron was consistent, and so was Botelho. But instead of using a bat and a ball, she used a pen and a paper.

The Johnston resident regularly wrote letters of support to Aaron in the 70s.

“It was a tough time back then for him, so she sent support from little Rhode Island, saying that they were following him from the beginning,” Zarella said.

In May 1973, she wrote a letter to Aaron, and not even a month later, he responded. The two of them were counting his home runs, and in 1974, he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.

After she passed last January, one of her daughters contacted the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and submitted the letters in March.

The acceptance certificate for the letters came Thursday, one day before Aaron passed away at the age of 86.

Zarella knows his grandmother would’ve agreed that the letters needed to be sent to the museum.

“She probably would have been blown away ecstatic, like, that’s the perfect place for the letters to be,” Zarella said.

So while the pen pals never got to meet in person, they did share a mutual love for America’s favorite pastime that will be on display for the world to see.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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