Henry Lewis Aaron (Hank) was born in Mobile, Alabama, February 5, 1934. His baseball career started on November, 20, 1951, as he got a contract with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League where he played as shortstop and started getting Major League Baseball (MLB) offers.
The Boston Braves offered $50 a month more than The New York Giants or Willie Mays would have been Hank’s teammate. After playing om the Braves minor league teams he ended up on the Atlanta Crackers in 1953, where my mom and dad watched him play. They had an apartment, in the outfield, with a balcony that overlooked the field. The Boston Braves had been sold to Milwaukee this year and Aaron was called up to the Major League in 1954 and given the number “5”.
On April 15, Aaron got his first major league hit, a double off Cardinals’ pitcher Vic Raschi and hit his first major league home run on April 23, off the same pitcher. On September 5th his uniform number changed to “44”. In 1957 the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series against the New York Yankees, 4 games to 3. Aaron hit .393 with three homers and seven RBIs in the 7 games.
In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.Hank Aaron
On June 21, 1959, against the San Francisco Giants, he hit three two-run home runs, the only time in his career that he hit three home runs in a game. In 1958, 1959 and 1960 he received the Golden Glove Award, was the National League(NL) MVP in 1957, in 1956 and 1959 was the NL batting champion, was the NL home run leader in 1957, 1963, 1966 and 1967 and was the NL RBI leader in 1957, 1960, 1963 and 1966.
Hank Aaron is in the Braves Hall of Fame and had his number “44” retired by both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves. His career saw 2,297 runs batted in, 6,856 total bases, 1,477 extra base hits and played in 25 all-star games.
In 1973 he hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats, ending the season one home run short of Babe Ruth’s record. He would receive hate mail and death threats, from people not wanting him to break that record. In 1973, he received more mail than anyone else that year, 930,000 pieces.
The 1974 season started with a three game away series in Cincinnati where he tied Ruth’s record, April 4, 1974, in his very first at bat—on his first swing of the season—off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham.
In Atlanta, April 8, 1974, with a Braves attendance record 53,775, on National television (NBC) Hank Aaron hit number 715, in the fourth inning, off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. Daddy and I hopped up, out of our chairs in the living room, and hollered as Braves relief pitcher Tom House caught the ball in our bullpen.
Henry Aaron, in the second inning walked and scored. He’s sittin’ on 714. Here’s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. There’s a drive into left-center field. That ball is gonna be-eee … Outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron! The fireworks are going. Henry Aaron is coming around third. His teammates are at home plate. And listen to this crowd!Braves announcer Milo Hamilton, calling the game on WSB radio
On October 2, 1974, Aaron hit his 733rd home run in his last at bat as a Braves player. He was then acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers where he increased the home run total to 755. Over the course of his record-breaking 23-year career, he had a batting average of .305 with 163 hits a season, averaging just over 32 home runs and 99 RBIs a year, 100+ RBIs in a season 15 times, including a record of 13 in a row.
I would like people not to think in terms of the 755 home runs I hit but think in terms of what I’ve accomplished off the field and some of the things I stood for.Hank Aaron
I was taking a class in the Omni Hotel, in Atlanta, and was eating breakfast in Chick-fil-A. It was really crowded that morning and I had found a two-seater table. A man asked me could he sit with me, I looked up, it was Hank Aaron!. He was the nicest guy, talked almost the whole time, and I’ll never forget that meal. Hammerin’ Hank was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 on his first ballot with a vote of 97.8%. He died in his sleep on January 22, 2021 at the age of 86 years.
Hank Aaron – thank you for everything you ever taught us, for being a trailblazer through adversity and setting an example for all of us African American ball players who came after you. Being able to grow up and have the idols and role models I did, helped shape me for a future I could have never dreamed of. Hank’s passing will be felt by all of us who love the game and his impact will forever be cemented in my heart.Barry Bonds