KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The crowd came to a grainy, faded photograph of a husky 16-year-old with a wisp of fear on his face.
Nicknamed "Pork Chops," the kid was standing at the train station in Mobile, Ala., in 1952 just about to leave home.
"Why did they call you Pork Chops?" a little girl asked from the outskirts of the crowd.
"Because that was the only thing I knew to order off the menu," Hank Aaron said with a smile.
Trailed by a swarm of fans and reporters, the home run king toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Saturday, drinking in the sights and sounds of a unique era in American history, a period that was starting to come to an end just as Pork Chops was leaving home.
For Aaron, who played briefly with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues before joining the Milwaukee Braves, it proved a nostalgic journey.
"It's amazing. I think they've done a wonderful job," he said. "When you go through it, it brings back a lot of things. I was kind of reminiscing."
He paused for several minutes in front of the blowup of the picture of himself. The plaque explained that "Pork Chops" went on to break Babe Ruth's major league home run record in 1974 and still holds the all-time record with 755.
"I was just a baby," Aaron said.
"You should have stayed a baby," Billye Aaron teased her husband.
Funded entirely with private money, the museum is rapidly becoming one of Kansas City's most popular attractions.
"There are a lot of things in that museum I can identify with," said Aaron.
Upon entering, the first thing people see is a large room where life-sized bronze statues of Negro League Hall of Famers are fanned out in position on the diamond. But visitors are separated from the room by chicken wire, a symbol of the racial barriers that shut blacks out of mainstream America during the long period of segregation.
Before they can view the statues up close, visitors work their way around the entire concourse of the one-story museum, taking in photos and exhibits telling the story of black baseball from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries when blacks, thanks to Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier, finally gained full access to the major leagues.
"I guess the thing that you feel excited about when you go through the museum and you start looking at things, you start seeing what part baseball did play in our society," Aaron said.
"You look at whites and blacks going to baseball games side-by-side, maybe for a moment, maybe for an hour, or maybe for two hours. But all of the hatred and racism was just wiped away. Everybody was just out there for the same thing, to root for their favorite team or their favorite player.
"I've often said baseball played a very, very important role in our society. There are still some things that need to be done. But baseball has played a part."