Remembering Hank Aaron

By Calvin Postal

On Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Ala., Henry Louis Aaron was born into an exceedingly large family. He had seven siblings as well as his mom and dad in his home with him growing up. He was the third of eight children in the Aaron household. During his childhood, Henry’s father, Herbert Aaron, was determined for his son to be a baseball player. When the Hall of Fame legend Jackie Robinson came to speak near Henry’s town, his father insisted that they go. Listening to the wise words of Jackie Robinson, young Henry vowed to himself and his father that he would be a baseball player and play in the MLB.

At age 17, Henry Aaron was already gaining notice as a premier power-hitting infielder. His sudden burst of talent was enough for several different Negro League teams to reach out and offer him a contract. However, the team that pulled the most interest was the Indianapolis Clowns, the owner decided to offer him a deal he couldn’t refuse, and just like that Henry Aaron’s professional career had begun. After a solid season in Indianapolis, the Boston Braves owner decided to buy his contract from the Clowns, which was the moment that brought Henry Aaron to the major leagues. Henry started in the minor leagues, in the South Atlantic Sally League, playing for the Braves minor league affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida. Through Aaron’s first year in the minors he had to deal with horrible treatment from the people in the stands as well as the players on the other team. However, he was resilient and still managed to hit .362, with 22 home runs and 125 RBI’s. With these stats came the award of the Sally League MVP.

In the spring of 1954, Henry Aaron made his major league debut for the Milwaukee Braves. However, he was not playing his normal position of shortstop. Instead, he made his first start as a right fielder. After his major league debut, Henry decided that it was time to go by a new name to distinguish himself from others, and he chose Hank. Over his 26-season career, Hank Aaron was the epitome of consistent success. In 14 of Aaron’s seasons with the Braves, he batted over .300. In 15 of his seasons, Aaron was able to hit more than 30 home runs, more than 100 runs scored and more than 100 RBI’s. Hank Aaron is still currently the all-time home run leader in the MLB with 755 home runs. That record is 40 more than second place, held by Babe Ruth, who is regarded as the best player of all time. There have been three players who used performance-enhancing steroids and have hit more home runs, but their records are considered illegitimate. Aaron accumulated 3,771 hits during his career which, is good enough for third all-time, just behind the legendary Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. Hank Aaron also holds the record of most all-star game selections with 25, and he is tied with both Stan Musial and Willie Mays for most all star games played, 24. For 24 consecutive years, fans decided that Hank Aaron was deserving of representing the National League as an all-star. If this doesn’t show you the insane skill that this man possessed, nothing can. 

Even though Hank Aaron is now regarded as one of the best baseball players of all time, during his time in the league he was not treated like a superstar. He did not receive the respect he deserved because of the racial prejudice against African-Americans in the 1950s through 70s. He had a very quiet personality and was a very humble man who you could never catch gloating or boasting after a victory. Instead, you would see him training for the next game or consoling those on the losing teams.

Feature image courtesy of  Carl Albert Research and Studies Center, Congressional Collection