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Marion baseball field’s unique ties to Hank Aaron

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MARION, Ky. (WSIL) -- More than 50,000 people watched Henry 'Hank' Aaron blast home run number 715 out of Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. on April 8, 1974.

That gave Aaron the record at the time, passing baseball icon George Herman 'Babe' Ruth.

The ballpark was demolished in 1997. Today, some of the surviving seats can be found at a high school baseball field in Western Kentucky.

MARION'S MR. BASEBALL

The town of Marion, Ky. has produced just one Major League Baseball player: Rip Wheeler. But somehow, the town found a connection to Aaron, originally from Mobile, Ala. roughly 570 miles away.

It's all thanks to 84-year old Gordon Guess, a former banker who friends call 'Mr. Baseball'.

Guess met baseball in 1946, when he and his father traveled to St. Louis to visit family. During the trip, Guess' father asked his son to go to a ballgame.

The pair went to Sportsman's Park III to watch the eventual World Series champion Cardinals host the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. Guess fell in love with Dodger blue.

Rex Barney, Dixie Walker and Pee Wee Reese were just some the idols of his youth.

"I said 'well I don't want to be for the Cardinals because that's who my family's for. To hell with them'," Guess said.

A BASEBALL FAN'S BARGAIN

In 2006, Guess got a call about some old seats from Fulton County Stadium. His friend said the seats, located in Nashua, N.H., were ready to be discarded.

But Guess worked his magic. He paid $250 for 250 seats. Later, Guess called family and friends to help him transport the seats to Marion. Crews installed the seats in 2008.

It was part of a renovation project to bring semi-pro baseball back to Western Kentucky. It's also the deed of a longtime baseball fan who wanted a piece of its history at home.

"It's the only town I've lived in. This is where I wanted to play," Guess said. "I would like to sponsor baseball here as long as I can afford it."

The seats are inside Gordon Guess Field at the city-county park in Marion. The field changed its name in honor of Guess for his contributions to preserve baseball in the city.

GORDON GUESS' LEGACY

Chris Evans, the head baseball coach at Crittenden County High School and publisher of the local newspaper, says Guess' love for baseball is unmatched.

"He's helped make baseball what it is in Crittenden County," Evans said. "He was the innovator that got things going to raise money to get this ballpark where it's at."

The ballpark is home to the Crittenden County High School Rockets. Evans says the seats are treasures that bring moments of nostalgia.

"We try to always instill in them the historic value in what these seats mean to our ballpark and what Gordon has meant to our ballpark," Evans said.

Some of the seats have rust. Others don't have a seat, just a back. But the character and history of those seats is there for past and present players to enjoy.

"Here are the seats that saw Hank Aaron and that milestone many years ago," Evans said. "It just gives you chills to think about."

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Danny Valle

Danny Valle anchors News 3 This Morning on Saturday and Sunday and reports Monday-Wednesday at News 3 WSIL. He joined the team in 2017 as a morning producer, before becoming an anchor in 2018, and reporter in 2019. Danny graduated from SIU-Carbondale in 2015, earning a Bachelor’s in Electronic Journalism with a specialization in Sports Broadcasting.

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