If Atlanta's major league baseball team has ever had a batting practice pitch to hammer out of the park regarding an opportunity to change its nickname from Braves to something more noble and less controversial, it's right now.
As in today.
As in immediately, while the sad news of the death of its most legendary player, "Hammerin Hank" Aaron, is still fresh on the minds of Braves fans everywhere following the Hall of Famer's death this past Friday at the age of 86.
Almost immediately, calls to change the team's nickname from Braves to Hammers filled social media. A petition through Change.org was begun.
As of Monday afternoon, 885 folks had signed the document that begins: "In honor of Henry "The Hammer" Aaron's passing on January 22, 2021, at the age of 86, we ask that the team ownership, Liberty Media Corporation, and team executives, including Chairman Terry McGuirk, change the name of the Atlanta Braves to the Atlanta Hammers."
It's hard to argue with the idea. And not just because the Braves have come under increasing fire in recent years for what many believe is an insult to Native Americans.
As one of the signers of the petition posted on the website: "This would be an enduring tribute to one of the greatest sportsmen in history."
Would be. Should be. But will it be?
The Braves brass has stubbornly held fast to the notion that the name honors Native Americans rather than offends them. And to be fair, most protests through the years have been quite minor in nature. Nor has the organization been entirely insensitive to those who have voiced their dislike for the Braves nickname.
When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, complained about the team's longtime "Tomahawk Chant" during the 2019 playoffs, Atlanta stopped playing the music that accompanies the chant and stopped distributing its signature red foam tomahawks prior to the fifth and deciding game of that division series, which was won by the Cards.
Since almost no fans have been inside Truist Park since then due to the coronavirus pandemic, what the Braves might do going forward from that season-ending loss is unknown, though they have since removed a "Chop On" sign near the entrance to Truist Park.
No one much would dispute that we are living in ultra-sensitive times, our patience and tolerance for those things we've not always been entirely comfortable with but not so uncomfortable with as to forcefully challenge them now beginning to swing toward the side of change.
Prior to this past summer of racial and social unrest, did anyone seriously believe Washington's Redskins — a name Meriam-Webster has defined as "insulting and contemptuous"— would be changed after 87 years, the NFL team announcing on July 13th of last summer that it would go by the moniker Washington Football Team until a different nickname was chosen?
Then there are the Cleveland Indians, who have also announced they will no longer be the Indians after the 2021 season, despite being known by that name for more than 100 years, much like the Braves.
Still, neither the team formerly known as the Redskins nor the Cleveland team soon not to be known as the Indians could make those changes without controversy and bitterness on some fronts.
Renaming the Braves the Hammers would almost assuredly be seen as a huge positive by almost everyone except the company that's gotten rich off those red foam tomahawks, and even it could start making red foam hammers, one supposes.
What could be better than a permanent tribute to the greatest Atlanta (and Milwaukee) Brave ever: Hank Aaron. he of the 755 career homers, .300 career batting average and a life without the slightest hint of negativity, save the systemic racism he fought for most of his 23 major league seasons?
Moreover, how often do you get to make such a monumental change FOR something rather than AGAINST something? That's the opportunity the organization has in front of it, if only it will embrace it.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday (today if you're reading our print edition), FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Southeast and FOX Sports GO will offer live coverage of a memorial service for Aaron from Truist Park. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, those same three entities will also televise a funeral service for Aaron from Atlanta's Friendship Baptist Church.
Both are certain to paint the remarkable life of Aaron in the beautiful brush strokes it deserves. But for the Braves organization to bestow on No. 44 all the accolades and respect due him, it should be brave enough to announce at one of those events that from now on its major league baseball team will take the field as the Atlanta Hammers.
Could there be a more deserving, enduring tribute to one of the greatest sportsmen in history than that?
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.