Delta unveils Hank Aaron 755 aircraft

Associated
Press

With Barry
Bonds only seven homers away from tying Hank Aaron’s home run record, Delta Air
Lines made the most of its opportunity to honor Aaron as the home run king.

Loud music
blared and Delta employees cheered as the Atlanta-based airline on Monday
unveiled a new 757 aircraft adorned with artwork of Aaron in his home run pose,
gazing upward as if following the arc of one of his record 755 home runs.

Ed
Bastian, chief financial officer of Delta Air Lines Inc., and Aaron pulled back
the tarp to reveal the “Hank Aaron 755” aircraft at

Hartsfield-Jackson
Atlanta

International
Airport.

“This
is in honor of a true Hall of Famer and a humanitarian,” Bastian said.

Aaron
broke Babe Ruth’s career home-run record by hitting his 715th homer at old
Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974. He finished his career in 1976
with 755 homers, a record being challenged by Bonds, who hit his 748th homer
for the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

Aaron made
no mention of Bonds in his comments Monday to Delta employees or when answering
two questions from reporters following the ceremony.

“I am
honored and sometimes you know I pinch myself every now and then to see whether
it is real or not,” Aaron said.

Added the
73-year-old Aaron: “I am so thrilled to have an airplane named after me.
This is something I never dreamed about. As my mother always said, you’ve come
a long ways baby, and enjoy yourself.”

Aaron, a
vice president with the Braves, was joined by his wife, Billye, at the
ceremony.

Bastian
said Delta’s plans to honor Aaron “have been in the works for some
time.” He said the unveiling was not deliberately timed to be held before
Bonds breaks the record.

“It
wasn’t so much that, it was just that with all the attention paid to the
record, we thought it’d be appropriate that he be honored in his
hometown,” Bastian told The Associated Press.

“We
thought it’d be appropriate to honor Hank as baseball’s home run
champion.”

Aaron, who
has declined recent interview requests from The Associated Press, has said he
will not be present to witness Bonds’ record home run even if it comes in

Atlanta.

Earlier
this month in

Milwaukee,
Aaron was asked about Bonds and replied with a laugh, “I don’t have any
thoughts about Barry. I don’t even know how to spell his name.”

Aaron
began his career with the Milwaukee Braves and played in
Atlanta
from 1966-74 before returning to

Milwaukee
for his final two seasons with the Brewers.

“With
his retirement, the number became entrenched in public consciousness — 755
home runs, the greatest of all sports records,” Bastian said.