February 5, 2014

Happy Birthday: Hank Aaron, Greatest Baseball Player of All Time

My favorite team growing up in southern California was the Los Angeles Dodgers. As such, I have a vivid memory of Hank Aaron hitting home run #715 ... the one that pulled him ahead of Babe Ruth. He hit it during a game against the Dodgers. Al Downing was the Dodger pitcher that gave up the most famous home run in history.

These are the memories that came to mind today. I join with other villagers in wishing a blessed 77th birthday to Henry Louis Aaron. He was born on this date in 1934.

Read a great historical view of Aaron's childhood and baseball career here on the African American Registry. One aspect of his career that inspired me occurred early in his career:
After only a short time in the Negro Leagues, the Milwaukee Braves recruited Aaron. He joined the Braves' system in 1952 and was sent to the minor leagues. There he became one of the first Black players to break the color line in the Deep South; a dangerous proposition in the last, desperate days of segregation that was legally enforced by Jim Crow laws. After one season in Wisconsin, Aaron found himself playing for a Jacksonville, Florida team in the South Atlantic League. Fans insulted him constantly, and even some of his teammates hurled racial slurs at him. Hotels and restaurants were closed to him because he was Black. The situation was only tolerable because Aaron showed such talent and because he was young. Somehow the heightened tension inspired Aaron. During his year with the South Atlantic League, he led the circuit in batting average, doubles, runs scored, total bases and runs batted in. He was voted League Most Valuable Player for 1953.
Aaron retired in 1976 with record 755 home runs and 2297 runs batted in. One week later he began a new phase of his career, as director of player development for the Braves. Aaron was one of the first Blacks hired in a major league front office. Throughout his tenure with the Braves' management, he has called for more Black participation in the business end of baseball.

Hank Aaron has been a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1982.

What do you know or remember about Hammerin' Hank?
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Monica Roberts said...

I remember being allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch Hank Aaron hit number 715.

There were a lot of great ballplayers when I was growing up,but I am saddened by the fact that we don't have as many brothers playing baseball as we used to.

Martin Lindsey. said...

I remember seeing Hank hit one or two homers out of Bush Stadium against my Cardinals when I was kid.

Like Monica I had the privilege of seeing a number of future Hall of Famers back then. Glad to say I was able to see the greatest home run hitter ever.

Villager said...

Monica - There is a new youngster playing right field for the Atlanta Braves who should become a hero for young Blacks that are interested in baseball. I forget his name ... but, I think he wears #22.

Martin - I hope that we all appreciate the body of work being put together by Pujols out in St. Louis. He may be the best baseball player in the history of the game ... including Hank Aaron.