Remembering Hank Aaron
I was a kid when Hank Aaron broke the All Time HR Record in 1974. He was still one of baseballs best players, he had hit 40 HRs in 1973 at the age of 39. I always said that he was probably the most productive player of anyone after the age of 35 (not in the steroid era). And to me Hank Aaron is still the all time HR king. Hank Aaron was not only the all time HR king, but one of the best hitters & all around players of all time.
In those days, I got to see Willie Mays, at the end of his career too. Since he was a Met & former New York Giant, was always more popular with me. Willie was a better outfielder & base runner than Aaron.
Aaron threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the 1973 World Series between the Mets & A's. He was
a special guest in the Commissioners box, as Bowie Kuhn, always an Aaron supporter, knew how important Hank was to baseball & its future.
But, there were the haters, those against him because he was black. Plus those against him, because they loved Babe Ruth's legacy so much, they didn't want him to break the record. There were death threats & fears that his life could even be in danger while on the field. Those dark realities & the incredible pressures that came with the record, must have been unbearable at times for Aaron.
But Aaron just kept going out there, doing his job with a smile, giving it everything he had &
making the fans happy. He was popular & respected by to so many. He was good for the game of baseball & the history of the game.
In those days of the early 1970's Hank Aaron was a super star & a legend to a kid like me. I can remember the Oh Henry candy bar, had commercials featuring him hitting a HR & the crowd would yell " Oh Henry!" The candy bar wasn't originally named after him & had been out since 1920.
What a big deal it was to get those Aaron specials when you opened the pack.
When the 1974 baseball season started, the network would have a special broadcast to show the game where Aaron would tie & break the record. In those days you only had local baseball games & a game of the week, on Saturday, so this was big.
I can remember watching the game on TV. Off of my memory & baseball knowledge I can say, he hit the HR at Fulton County Stadium, in his second at bat, off the LA Dodgers pitcher, Al Downing.
trivia question- Who caught the HR? It was Braves pitcher, Tom House in the Atlanta bullpen!
Aaron was mobbed at home plate by his team mates & some fans. His parents came running out & his mother gave him a big hug as the Atlanta fans gave him a standing ovation. It was a big moment in history in many ways.
He led the league in HRs & RBIs four times each. Aaron drove in 100 or more runs eleven times. Although he ranks second all time in HRs (755) he is first in RBIs (2297).
Aaron was not only a slugger but, he was an all around hitter which many people overlook.
He was a lifetime .305 hitter with 292 intentional base on balls (4th all time) 1402 walks (27th all time) 2294 singles (14th all time). He had 624 doubles (133th all time) 98 triples (166th all time) & a .555 slugging % (20th all time). He never struck out more than 97 times in a season. In 12364 at bats he struck out just 1294 times.
Aaron appeared in 25 All Star Games (most all time), won one MVP Award, and three Gold Gloves in the outfield. He was a fine outfielder & then became a fine first baseman later in his career.
In a 23 year career, he played in three postseasons & two World Series. His Milwaukee Braves won the 1957 World Series where Aaron batted .393 (11-28). He hit three HRs & drove in seven runs, with RBI's in four of the seven games.
He homered in the 4th inning of the Braves classic Game #4 win in Milwaukee. That game was won with the Braves trailing the AL New York team 5-4 in the 9th inning.
Hammering Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
He was married twice & has six children.
Hank Aaron passed away on his sleep on January 22nd, 2021 at age 86.