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Hank Aaron hits first home run of his MLB career

Hank Aaron hits first home run of his MLB career


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On April 23, 1954, Hank Aaron knocks out the first home run of his Major League Baseball career. Twenty years later, Aaron becomes baseball’s new home run king when he broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 career homers.

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Aaron began his professional baseball career in 1952 in the Negro League and joined the Milwaukee Braves of the major leagues in 1954, eight years after Jackie Robinson had integrated baseball. Aaron was the last Negro League player to compete in the majors. He played his first game with the Braves on April 13 and went hitless in his five times at bat. Two days later, he got his first hit, a single, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and on April 23, 1954, pounded out his first major league home run off Cardinals’ pitcher Vic Raschi.

Aaron quickly established himself as an important player for the Braves and won the National League batting title in 1956. The following season, he took home the league’s MVP award and helped the Braves beat Mickey Mantle and the heavily favored New York Yankees in the World Series. In 1959, Aaron won his second league batting title. Season after season, he turned in strong batting performances: “Hammerin’ Hank” hit .300 or higher for 14 seasons and slugged at least 40 homers in eight separate seasons. In May 1970, he became the first player in baseball to record 500 homers and 3,000 hits. The achievement Aaron is best known for, though, is breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs, which he did on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when he hit his 715th home run in the fourth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron played for the Milwaukee Braves from 1954 to 1965 and then moved with the team to Atlanta in 1966. On February 29, 1972, the Atlanta Braves signed Aaron to a three-year, $200,000 per year contract that made him baseball’s best-paid player. In November 1974, the Braves traded Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he spent the final two seasons of his career. Aaron retired from baseball in 1976 with 755 career home runs, a record that stood until August 7, 2007, when it was broken by Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. Aaron died in 2021.


Baseball legend Hank Aaron had a history of home runs in New Orleans

The baseball community lost one of its most respected ballplayers when Henry Aaron died on January 22, a few days shy of his 87 th birthday. He is most remembered for breaking Babe Ruth’s long-standing career home run record in 1974 when he hit his 715 th homer. He wound up hitting 755 during his 23-year career. A little-known fact is that Aaron has a home run history tied to New Orleans, although not including one of his historic 755.

New Orleans had long-hosted exhibition games between two major league teams. As teams wrapped up their spring training in Florida and were making their way back to their home cities to start the regular season, a stopover in New Orleans was often scheduled.

The Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles came to the city for a final tune-up exhibition game at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium on April 1, 1974. The game drew significant local attention since Atlanta’s Aaron needed just one more home run to tie Ruth’s record of 714.

While the whole nation was waiting for Aaron’s first regular season game with Cincinnati on April 4, New Orleans fans got the treat of a lifetime when Aaron smacked a home run in the eighth inning of the game against the Orioles. Given that he had struck out and walked in his first two at-bats, the crowd sat anxiously on the edge of their seats to see if Aaron would get another at-bat or be replaced by a substitute in the later innings. Furthermore, rain has been threatening the entire game.

Aaron did stay in the game and the rain held off. He finally gave the fans what they had waited for, when he hit a fastball off Orioles pitcher Bob Reynolds over the left field fence. His homer was one of five the Braves hit for the day, as they defeated Baltimore 7-0.

On April 4, Aaron tied Ruth’s record on Opening Day in Cincinnati, and then broke the legendary record in his home ballpark in Atlanta against the Los Angeles Dodgers with his 715 th .

Aaron retired in 1976 with 755 home runs, a record he held until Barry Bonds surpassed him in 2007.

Aaron returned to New Orleans ten years later when he participated in an old-timer’s game in the Superdome. He suited up for the Nationals team that opposed the Americans in the All-Time All-Star game on June 2, 1984. In addition to Aaron, both teams were packed with other Hall of Fame players such as Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Larry Doby, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, and Warren Spahn.

Again, Aaron didn’t disappoint the local crowd, as he got the Nationals on the scoreboard in the first inning by cranking a home run off Bob Feller with Willie Mays on base. Those were all the runs the Nationals needed as they went on to a 7-0 win.

Aaron began his career in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves as a 20-year-old. He played 21 seasons in the Braves organization, moving with the franchise to Atlanta in 1966. He returned to Milwaukee in 1975, after they had become the Brewers franchise, and played two more seasons. He still holds major-league records for RBIs and total bases.

After his playing career, Aaron served as an executive in the Braves front office. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.


Over 22 years later in 1976, after having passed Babe Ruth‘s record 714 home runs two years prior, Hank Aaron had spent the past two years widening the gap on his home run record with the Milwaukee Brewers

Aaron’s final home run ball was caught by stadium worker Richard Arndt who according to the LA Times, sold the baseball in 1999 for an astounding $650,000.

In a game at County Stadium on July 20, 1976, Hank Aaron stepped into the batters box for his fourth at bat of a 4-1 game looking for his first hit after starting the game against the California Angels 0-3.

Batting in the seventh inning against Dick Drago, born in 1945 (a 26 year difference from the birth year of the pitcher Aaron hit his first home run off) Hank Aaron hit career home run number 755, an all time record that would stand for 41 years.

While coated in controversy, Hank Aaron’s home run record was broken in 2007 by Barry Bonds. There are however three records that Aaron does hold that I believe will never be broken.

First, Hank Aaron is number one all time in RBI (runs batted in) with 2,297, the closest active players are Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Pujols is third all time with 2,100 and at 40 years old still trails by 197. Cabrera is 24th all time with 1,729 RBI and is 37 years old and unlikely to reach Aaron’s record.

Second, Hank Aaron is first all time in All-Star seasons with 21. Miguel Cabrera is the nearest active player with 11 All-Star appearances. Perennial all-star Mike Trout only has 8 and at 29 would have to play 13 consecutive all-star caliber seasons to break Aaron’s record.

Finally, Hank Aaron leads Major League baseball in total bases. This really blows my mind how far ahead Aaron is in this statistic. Hank Aaron is 722 total bases ahead of second place Stan Musial, an absolutely bonkers 12.3 miles worth of total bases! To add even more perspective, Barry Bonds could hit 200 more home runs and still have fewer total bases than Aaron.

&ldquoHank Aaron was the most productive hitter in the history of baseball.&rdquo

BK reflects on the life and career of the late Hank Aaron. pic.twitter.com/ARl7tWMaw6

&mdash MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 24, 2021

Hank Aaron’s legacy will live on forever, in his playing career and the top hitters from the NL and AL every season receive the Hank Aaron award. While remembered, Aaron will forever be missed.

Aaron leaves behind a legacy of greatness not just on the baseball field, but off it as well.


Home Run Records

This was his 21st season with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. Hammerin&rsquo Hank hit his 715th career home run to surpass Babe Ruth&rsquos long time standing home run record.

Then on August 7th, 2007 while playing for the San Francisco Giants, Barry Bonds creamed a pitch to hit his 756th career home run in order to pass Aaron&rsquos home run record. Bonds ended his MLB career with 762 home runs. Due to Bonds&rsquo use of performance enhancing drugs (steroids) he is often not considered the true home run champion of Major League Baseball. Hank Aaron is often referred to being the real home run king of the MLB.


Throwback: Hank Aaron Hits 755th And Final Home Run Of His Career


July 20, 1976: Hank Aaron hits his 755th and final career home run in a 6-2 win for the Milwaukee Brewers against the California Angels.

Aaron had topped Babe Ruth for most career home runs in 1974, so each subsequent homer was merely giving himself extra cushion at the top of the leaderboard.

He entered the 1976 season with MLB records of 745 home runs, 2,262 runs batted in and 21 seasons as an All-Star.

Being 42 at the start of the 1976 season, Aaron entered this July 20 contest against the Angels with only nine home runs and a .246 batting average.

In the bottom of the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead over the Angels, Aaron took relief pitcher Dick Drago deep to left field for his 755th home run, giving his team a 4-1 lead and stretching his margin over Ruth even further.

Since there were roughly two months left in the regular season, few expected this blast to be the last of Aaron's career, but knee injuries limited Aaron to 85 games during the season and hampered his effectiveness when he was active. Subsequently, Aaron retired at the conclusion of the regular season with 755 home runs, a record that remained intact for more than 31 years.

While this was unknown at the time, the ball Aaron struck would proceed to have great value due to its status as Hammerin' Hank's last professional home run. According to the Los Angeles Times, groundskeeper Richard Arndt sold the ball for $650,000 in 1999.

In 2007, the Giants' Barry Bonds caught Aaron, striking his 756th home run on August 7 before eventually retiring with an all-time best 762. Coincidentally, Bonds' father, Bobby, was a member of the 1976 Angels team which Aaron's final home run came against.

Because of Bonds' involvement with the BALCO group responsible for PEDs, many fans continue to call Aaron the true "Home Run King." Initially, Aaron refused to acknowledge that argument in this congratulatory speech that played in San Francisco's AT&T Park during the game:

While Aaron's home run record was surpassed by Bonds, his RBI (now 2,297) and All-Star game records still stand as the best ever, as does his mark of 6,856 total bases, according to Baseball-Reference.

In 1999, the MLB created the "Hank Aaron Award," which has since been annually given to the top offensive player in each league. In addition, Aaron was given the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" in 2002 by George W. Bush.

Aaron, now 81, was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1982, receiving the second highest percentage of possible votes (97.8 percent) of all time behind only Ty Cobb's 98.4 percent. Aaron now works in the front office for the Braves, with whom he spent 21 of his 23 years in the majors.

Check out more intriguing moments of sports history in Throwback on ThePostGame.


Happy 40th Anniversary: Hank Aaron hits 715th career home run

Forty years ago today, Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run. It moved him past Babe Ruth and into first place on the all-time homer list. The video is above, though this is one highlight I'm sure you have all seen many, many times. It might be the most famous highlight in baseball history.

The legendary home run did not come without some controversy. Braves' management wanted Aaron to break the record at home, but they opened the season with three games in Cincinnati. The team planned to sit Aaron for the three games, but commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled he had to play in at least two games.

Aaron, then 40, tied Ruth's record with his 714th career homer in his very first at-bat of the season. He went 0-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts the rest of the series against the Reds. On the first pitch of his first at-bat of his first home game of the 1974 season, Aaron broke the record with a solo shot off Al Downing, who had a long and excellent career himself.

As you can imagine, Aaron received death threats for months leading up to the record-breaking homer. Newspapers reportedly prepared obituaries in case Aaron was murdered in the days leading up to or just after breaking the record. He also received a lot of support, from fans and the media alike.

Aaron finished that 1974 season with 20 homers, his lowest total since his rookie season in 1954. He played two more years and retired with 755 career home runs, a record that stood until Barry Bonds hit his 756th homer in 2007. Ruth's record stood for 39 years after he retired.

Believe it or not, Aaron only led the league in homers four times in his 23-year career. His career high was 47 home runs in 1971, but he did hit 40+ homers eight times. From 1957-73, only twice did Aaron fail to hit 30+ homers. The man was as consistent as they come.

Aaron turned 80 years old back in February. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1982, receiving 97.8 percent of the vote. That is the sixth highest percentage in baseball history and was the second highest at the time, trailing only Ty Cobb.

There are still a lot of people who consider Aaron the all-time home run king, but, either way, he is one of the best and most dominant hitters in the history of the game. Record or no record, he was (and still is) a class act and one of the greatest players who ever lived.


Remembering the calls of Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run, 47 years later

Hank Aaron became Major League Baseball’s home run leader on April 8, 1974. Facing Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing in the fourth inning 47 years ago, the Atlanta Braves slugger hit a two-run shot and surged past Babe Ruth into baseball history with career home run No. 715.

The anniversary of Aaron’s milestone is bittersweet since it’s the first time that he’s no longer with us to reminisce and celebrate. The Hall of Famer, who eventually hit 755 home runs, passed away in January at the age of 86.

But we can certainly note the occasion by remembering the broadcast calls of that historic moment. On local radio, Milo Hamilton had the call most of us likely recognize with No. 715.

“There’s a drive into left-center field! That ball is gonna be… outta here!” said Hamilton. “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!”

Considering Vin Scully’s place in baseball broadcast history, plenty of others likely remember his call of Aaron’s homer for the Dodgers radio network.

“There’s a high drive into deep left-center field, Buckner goes back… it is gone!” Scully said. He then said nothing as Aaron rounded the bases and joined his teammates (along with a trenchcoated Craig Sager) at home plate, letting the sounds of the moment, the cheers from the Atlanta Stadium crowd, and the fireworks going off in the ballpark tell the story for listeners.

Eventually, however, Scully put Aaron’s home run in its proper cultural context, one of the many skills that made him such an iconic broadcaster.

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.

“A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate, not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother.”

Scully also acknowledged the toll that pursuing Ruth’s record amid racist abuse and pressure of making baseball history took on Aaron.

“And for the first time in a long time,” said Scully, “that poker face of Aaron’s shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months. It is over.”

On television, Curt Gowdy was at the mic for NBC when Aaron took the top spot on baseball’s all-time home run list.

“There’s a long drive, ball hit deep… deep… and it’s gone!” said Gowdy. “He did it! He did it! Henry Aaron is the all-time home run leader now! Listen to this! He did it!” And like Scully, Gowdy let the sounds and visuals establish the rest of the scene.

Remembering Aaron’s legendary home run also feels more resonant in light of Major League Baseball deciding to pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s controversial new voting laws. Having the Midsummer Classic in Atlanta would’ve presented the opportunity to commemorate Aaron’s achievement, his career, and his advocacy for civil rights in this country.

Plenty of tributes were paid to Aaron after his death. (Though Barry Bonds surpassed him as baseball’s all-time home run leader with 762, many still view “Hammerin’ Hank” as the true record-holder due to Bonds’ association with performance-enhancing drugs.)

Yet it still feels as if he and his achievements are not honored enough. Perhaps because the man himself was quiet and preferred not to attract attention. But we can do the celebrating for him by never forgetting.

[This post was updated to include Gowdy’s television call from NBC.]


Negro and Minor Leagues

In late 1951, 18-year-old Aaron quit school to play for the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns. It wasn&apost a long stay, but the talented teenager left his mark by hitting .366 and leading his club to victory in the league&aposs 1952 World Series. Additionally, he would become the last to play in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues.

After signing with the Milwaukee Braves for $10,000, Aaron was assigned to one of the organization&aposs farm clubs, the Class C Eau Claire Bears. He did not disappoint, earning Northern League Rookie of the Year honors in 1952. Promoted to the Class A Jacksonville Braves in 1953, Aaron continued to tear apart pitching with 208 hits, 22 homers and a .362 average.


Hank Aaron

Henry Louis Aaron was a Major League Baseball player with the Milwaukee Braves (1954-1965), Atlanta Braves (1966-1974), and Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976). Did you know that Hank, his nickname, holds the Major League record for most All-Star Game selections (25). Did you know Hank is tied with Stan Musial and Willie Mays for the most All-Star Games played (24)? Join Baseball Almanac as we take a look at additional numbers of interest as they relate to Hammerin' Hank Aaron:

5 - Hank Aaron was ranked fifth by The Sporting News when they released their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in the history of baseball.

30 - Hank Aaron stole 30+ bases in a single season only once in his career, during the 1963 campaign, and when he swiped his thirtieth of the year on September 25, 1963, he already had hit 40+ home runs making him only the third player in Major League history to join the 30 / 30 Club, behind Willie Mays (1956 & 1957) and Ken Williams (1922).

755 - Hank Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs, more than any player in baseball history at the time of his retirement. He is currently #2 on the Top 1,000, behind Barry Bonds (762). EVERY home run is significant here at Baseball Almanac, but in early-2001, we created a page dedicated to Aaron's Aaron's Significant Home Runs. Some of the milestones we mentioned:

HR #1 - Hank Aaron hit the first home run of his career on April 23, 1954, off Vic Rashchi of the St. Louis Cardinals [6th inning / 1 out / bases empty].

HR #100 - Hank Aaron hit the 100th home run of his career on August 15, 1957, off Don Gross of the Cincinnati Reds [7th inning / 2 outs / runner on 1st].

HR #200 - Hank Aaron hit the 200th home run of his career on July 3, 1960, off Ron Kline of the St. Louis Cardinals [7th inning / 0 outs / bases empty].

HR #300 - Hank Aaron hit the 300th home run of his career on April 19, 1963, off Roger Craig of the New York Mets [8th inning / 1 out / runner on 1st].

HR #400 - Hank Aaron hit the 400th home run of his career on April 20, 1966, off Bo Belinsky of the Philadelphia Phillies [9th inning / 0 outs / bases empty].

HR #500 - Hank Aaron hit the 500th home run of his career on July 14, 1968, off Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants [3rd inning / 2 outs / runner on 1st & 3rd] [500 Home Runs Club].

HR #600 - Hank Aaron hit the 600th home run of his career on April 27, 1971, off (future Hall of Fame pitcher) Gaylord Perry of the San Francisco Giants [3rd inning / 1 out / runner on 1st].

HR #649 - Hank Aaron hit the 649th home run of his career on June 10, 1972, off Wayne Twitchell of the Philadelphia Phillies [6th inning / 1 out / bases were loaded] - a milestone because it passed Willie Mays, who also still active, and gave Aaron sole possession of the National League home run mark.

HR #700 - Hank Aaron hit the 700th home run of his career on July 21, 1973, off Ken Brett of the Philadelphia Phillies.

HR #714 - Hank Aaron hit the 714th home run of his career on April 4, 1974, off Jack Billingham of the Cincinnati Reds - a milestone because it tied him with Babe Ruth, the all-time home run champion.

HR #715 - Hank Aaron hit the 715th home run of his career on April 8, 1974, off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers - a milestone because he passed Babe Ruth, taking over sole possession of the home run king title.

HR #755 - Hank Aaron hit the 755th home run of his career on July 20, 1976, off Dick Drago of the California Angels - a milestone because it was his last, placing him at the top of the Top 1,000 list for 30+ years.

1,477 - Hank Aaron finished his career with 1,477 extra base hits, more than any player in baseball history (#1 on the Top Top 1,000).

2,297 - Hank Aaron finished his career with 2,297 runs batted in (RBI), more than any player in baseball history (#1 on the Top Top 1,000).

2,297 - Hank Aaron finished his career with 6,856 total bases, more than any player in baseball history (#1 on the Top Top 1,000).

Hank Aaron was the first Milwaukee Braves player to wear #44, the first Atlanta Braves player to wear #44, and no player has worn the number since as the team retired it the year after he hung up his cleats (in 1977). Although Hank only wore #44 two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, they retired his number during his final season.

Braves who wore #44 before Hank Aaron Bob Chipman (1951) and Buzz Clarkson (1952), both of which wore it when the Braves were still playing in Boston. Brewers who wore #44 before Hank Aaron Hank Allen (1970) and Gorman Thomas (1973 & 1974).

Hank Aaron | National Baseball Hall of Fame Plaque | Class of 1982 (HOF)

When Hank Aaron joined the 3,000 Hits Club on May 17, 1970, with a single in the second game of a doubleheader off Cincinnati Reds pitcher Wayne Simpson, he became the first player in Major League history to be part of both the 3,000 Hits Club and 500 Home Runs Club.


Contents

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Herbert Aaron Sr. and Estella (Pritchett) Aaron. [10] [11] [12] He had seven siblings. [10] Tommie Aaron, one of his brothers, also went on to play Major League Baseball. By the time Aaron retired, he and his brother held the record for most career home runs by a pair of siblings (768). They were also the first siblings to appear in a League Championship Series as teammates. [13]

While he was born in a section of Mobile referred to as "Down the Bay", he spent most of his youth in Toulminville. Aaron grew up in a poor family. [10] His family could not afford baseball equipment, so he practiced by hitting bottle caps with sticks. He would create his own bats and balls out of materials he found on the streets. [14] His boyhood idol was baseball star Jackie Robinson. [15] Aaron attended Central High School [b] as a freshman and a sophomore. Like most high schools, they did not have organized baseball, so he played outfield and third base for the Mobile Black Bears, a semipro team. [18] Aaron was a member of the Boy Scouts of America.

Although he batted cross-handed (as a right-handed hitter, with his left hand above his right), Aaron established himself as a power hitter. As a result, in 1949, at the age of 15, Aaron had his first tryout with an MLB franchise, the Brooklyn Dodgers however, he did not make the team. [19] [20] After this, Aaron returned to school to finish his secondary education, attending the Josephine Allen Institute, a private high school in Alabama. During his junior year, Aaron joined the Prichard Athletics, an independent Negro league team, [21] followed by the Mobile Black Bears, another independent Negro league team. [10] While on the Bears, Aaron earned $3 per game ($30 today), which was a dollar more than he got while on the Athletics. [20]

On November 20, 1951, baseball scout Ed Scott signed Aaron to a contract on behalf of the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, where he played for three months. [22] [23]

He started play as a 6 ft (180 cm), 180 lb (82 kg) shortstop, [24] and earned $200 per month. [25] As a result of his standout play with the Indianapolis Clowns, Aaron received two offers from MLB teams via telegram, one from the New York Giants and the other from the Boston Braves. Years later, Aaron remembered:

I had the Giants' contract in my hand. But the Braves offered fifty dollars a month more. That's the only thing that kept Willie Mays and me from being teammates – fifty dollars. [26]

While with the Clowns he experienced racism. Of a time his team was in Washington, D.C. Aaron recalled

We had breakfast while we were waiting for the rain to stop, and I can still envision sitting with the Clowns in a restaurant behind Griffith Stadium and hearing them break all the plates in the kitchen after we finished eating. What a horrible sound. Even as a kid, the irony of it hit me: here we were in the capital in the land of freedom and equality, and they had to destroy the plates that had touched the forks that had been in the mouths of black men. If dogs had eaten off those plates, they'd have washed them. [27]

The Howe Sports Bureau credits Aaron with a .366 batting average in 26 official Negro league games, with five home runs, 33 runs batted in (RBIs), 41 hits, and nine stolen bases. [28]

The Braves purchased Aaron's contract from the Clowns for $10,000, [29] which GM John Quinn thought was a steal, as he stated that he felt that Aaron was a $100,000 property. [25] On June 12, 1952, Aaron signed with Braves' scout Dewey Griggs. [25] During this time, he picked up the nickname "pork chops" because it "was the only thing I knew to order off the menu". [30] A teammate later said, "the man ate pork chops three meals a day, two for breakfast". [31]

The Braves assigned Aaron to the Eau Claire Bears, the Braves' Northern League Class-C farm team. [10] The 1952 season proved to be very beneficial for Aaron. Playing in the infield, Aaron continued to develop as a ballplayer and made the Northern League's All-Star team. [10] He broke his habit of hitting cross-handed and adopted the standard hitting technique. By the end of the season, he had performed so well that the league made him the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year. [19] [10] Although he appeared in just 87 games, he scored 89 runs, had 116 hits, nine home runs, and 61 RBIs. [10] In addition, Aaron hit for a .336 batting average. [10] During his minor league experience, he was very homesick and faced constant racism, but his brother, Herbert Jr., told him not to give up the opportunity. [32]

In 1953, the Braves promoted him to the Jacksonville Braves, their Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. [10] Helped by Aaron's performance, the Braves won the league championship that year. Aaron led the league in runs (115), hits (208), doubles (36), RBIs (125), total bases (338), and batting average (.362). [10] He won the league's Most Valuable Player Award, [10] [18] and had such a dominant year that one sportswriter was prompted to say, "Henry Aaron led the league in everything except hotel accommodations." [33] Aaron's time with the Braves did not come without problems. He was one of the first African Americans to play in the league. [34] The 1950s were a period of racial segregation in parts of the United States, especially the southeastern portion of the country. When Aaron traveled around Jacksonville, Florida, and the surrounding areas, he was often separated from his team because of Jim Crow laws. In most circumstances, the team was responsible for arranging housing and meals for its players, but Aaron often had to make his own arrangements. [35] The Braves' manager, Ben Geraghty, tried his best to help Aaron on and off the field. Former Braves minor league player and sportswriter Pat Jordan said, "Aaron gave [Geraghty] much of the credit for his own swift rise to stardom." [36]

That same year, Aaron met his future wife, Barbara Lucas. The night they met, Lucas decided to attend the Braves' game. Aaron singled, doubled, and hit a home run in the game. On October 6, Aaron and Lucas married. [37] In 1958, Aaron's wife noted that during the offseason he liked "to sit and watch those shooting westerns". He also enjoyed cooking and fishing. [37]

Aaron spent the winter of 1953 playing in Puerto Rico. Mickey Owen, the team's manager, helped Aaron with his batting stance. Until then, Aaron had hit most pitches to left field or center field, but after working with Owen, Aaron was able to hit the ball more effectively all over the field. [19] [ better source needed ] During his stay in Puerto Rico, Owen also helped Aaron transition from second base to the outfield. Aaron had not played well at second base, but Owen noted that Aaron could catch fly balls and throw them well from the outfield to the infield. [38]

The stint in Puerto Rico also allowed Aaron to avoid being drafted into military service. Though the Korean War was over, people were still being drafted. The Braves were able to speak to the draft board, making the case that Aaron could be the player to integrate the Southern Association the following season with the Atlanta Crackers. The board appears to have been convinced, as Aaron was not drafted. [38]

In 1954, Aaron attended spring training with the major league club. Although he was on the roster of its farm club, Milwaukee manager Charley Grimm later stated, "From the start, he did so well I knew we were going to have to carry him." [25] On March 13, 1954, Milwaukee Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson fractured his ankle while sliding into second base during a spring training game. The next day, Aaron made his first spring training start for the Braves major league team, playing in left field and hitting a home run. [18] This led Hank Aaron to a major league contract, signed on the final day of spring training, and a Braves uniform with the number five. [39] On April 13, Aaron made his major league debut and was hitless in five at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds' left-hander Joe Nuxhall. [40] In the same game, Eddie Mathews hit two home runs, the first of a record 863 home runs the pair would hit as teammates. On April 15, Aaron collected his first major league hit, a double off Cardinals' pitcher Vic Raschi. [41] Aaron hit his first major league home run on April 23, also off Raschi. [10] Over the next 122 games, Aaron batted .280 with 13 homers before he suffered a fractured ankle on September 5. He then changed his number to 44, which would turn out to look like a "lucky number" for the slugger. Aaron would hit 44 home runs in four different seasons, [42] and he hit his record-breaking 715th career home run off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, who coincidentally also wore number 44. [43]

At this point, Aaron was known to family and friends primarily as "Henry". Braves' public relations director Don Davidson, observing Aaron's quiet, reserved nature, began referring to him publicly as "Hank" in order to suggest more accessibility. The nickname quickly gained currency, but "Henry" continued to be cited frequently in the media, both sometimes appearing in the same article, and Aaron would answer to either one. During his rookie year, his other well-known nicknames, "Hammerin' Hank" (by teammates) and "Bad Henry" (by opposing pitchers) are reported to have arisen. [44]

Considerably later in his career, Aaron coined "Stone-fingers", which would prove a popular handle for one of baseball's more colorful characters, the famously distance-hitting but defensively challenged first baseman Dick Stuart, [45] reportedly "delight[ing]" even its recipient. [46]

Sal Maglie recommended throwing low curveballs to Aaron. "He's going to swing and he'll go after almost anything," Maglie said of the Braves' slugger. "And he'll hit almost anything, so you have to be careful." [47]

Prime of his career Edit

Aaron hit .314 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs, in 1955. He was named to the NL All-Star roster for the first time it was the first of a record 21 All-Star selections and first of a record 25 All-Star Game appearances. [48] [49] In 1956, Aaron hit .328 and captured the first of two NL batting titles. He was also named The Sporting News NL Player of the Year. In 1957, Aaron won his only NL MVP Award, [10] as he had his first brush with the triple crown. [50] He batted .322, placing third, and led the league in home runs and runs batted in. [10] On September 23, 1957, in Milwaukee, Aaron hit a two-run walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals, clinching the pennant for the Braves. After touching home plate he was carried off the field by his teammates. It is as of yet the only pennant-clinching walk-off home run in major league history in a non-playoff regular-season game. Milwaukee went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees, the defending champions, 4 games to 3. [10] Aaron did his part by hitting .393 with three homers and seven RBIs. On December 15, 1957, his wife Barbara gave birth to twins. [37] Two days later, one of the children died. [37] In 1958, Aaron hit .326, with 30 home runs and 95 RBIs. He led the Braves to another pennant, but this time they lost a seven-game World Series to the Yankees. Aaron finished third in the MVP race and he received his first of three Gold Glove Awards. During the next several years, Aaron had some of his best games and best seasons as a major league player. On June 21, 1959, against the San Francisco Giants, he hit three two-run home runs. It was the only time in his career that he hit three home runs in a game. [51]

In 1963, Aaron nearly won the triple crown. He led the league with 44 home runs and 130 RBIs and finished third in batting average. [c] In that season, Aaron became the third player to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Despite that, he again finished third in the MVP voting. The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season. On May 10, 1967, he hit an inside-the-park home run against Jim Bunning in Philadelphia. It was the only inside-the-park home run of his career. [52] In 1968, Aaron was the first Atlanta Braves player to hit his 500th career home run, and in 1970, he was the first Atlanta Brave to reach 3,000 career hits. [53]

Home run milestones and 3,000th hit Edit

During his days in Atlanta, Aaron reached several milestones he was only the eighth player ever to hit 500 career home runs, with his 500th coming against Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants on July 14, 1968 — exactly one year after former Milwaukee Braves teammate Eddie Mathews had hit his 500th. [54] Aaron was, at the time, the second-youngest player to reach the milestone. [d] On July 31, 1969, Aaron hit his 537th home run, passing Mickey Mantle's total this moved Aaron into third place on the career home run list, after Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. At the end of the 1969 season, Aaron again finished third in the MVP voting. [55]

In 1970, Aaron reached two more career milestones. On May 17, Aaron collected his 3,000th hit, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, the team against which he played in his first major-league game. [56] Aaron established the record for most seasons with thirty or more home runs in the National League. On April 27, 1971, Aaron hit his 600th career home run, the third major league player ever to do so. On July 13, Aaron hit a home run in the All-Star Game (played at Detroit's Tiger Stadium) for the first time. He hit his 40th home run of the season against the Giants' Jerry Johnson on August 10, which established a National League record for most seasons with 40 or more home runs (seven). At age 37, he hit a career-high 47 home runs during the season (along with a career-high .669 slugging percentage) and finished third in MVP voting for the sixth time. During the strike-shortened season of 1972, Aaron tied and then surpassed Willie Mays for second place on the career home run list. Aaron also drove in the 2,000th run of his career and hit a home run in the first All-Star game played in Atlanta. [57] As the year came to a close, Aaron broke Stan Musial's major-league record for total bases (6,134), [58] a record he was the most proud of, more than his home run record since it reflected his overall performance as a team player. [59] Aaron finished the season with 673 career home runs. [60]

Breaking Ruth's record Edit

Aaron himself downplayed the "chase" to surpass Babe Ruth, while baseball enthusiasts and the national media grew increasingly excited as he closed in on the 714 career home runs record. Aaron received thousands of letters every week during the summer of 1973, including hate mail the Braves ended up hiring a secretary to help him sort through it. [61]

Aaron (then age 39) hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats, ending the 1973 season one home run short of the record. He hit home run number 713 on September 29, 1973, and with one day remaining in the season, many expected him to tie the record. But in his final game that year, playing against the Houston Astros (managed by Leo Durocher, who had once roomed with Babe Ruth), he was unable to achieve this. After the game, Aaron said his only fear was that he might not live to see the 1974 season. [62]

He was the recipient of death threats and a large assortment of hate mail during the 1973–1974 offseason from people who did not want to see Aaron break Ruth's nearly sacrosanct home run record. [63] The threats extended to those providing positive press coverage of Aaron. Lewis Grizzard, then-executive sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, reported receiving numerous phone calls calling journalists "nigger lovers" for covering Aaron's chase. While preparing the massive coverage of the home run record, he quietly had an obituary written, afraid that Aaron might be murdered. [64]

Sports Illustrated pointedly summarized the racist vitriol that Aaron was forced to endure:

Is this to be the year in which Aaron, at the age of thirty-nine, takes a moon walk above one of the most hallowed individual records in American sport . Or will it be remembered as the season in which Aaron, the most dignified of athletes, was besieged with hate mail and trapped by the cobwebs and goblins that lurk in baseball's attic? [65]

At the end of the 1973 season, Aaron received a plaque from the U.S. Postal Service for receiving more mail (930,000 pieces) than any person excluding politicians. [27] Aaron received an outpouring of public support in response to the bigotry. Newspaper cartoonist Charles Schulz created a series of Peanuts strips printed in August 1973 in which Snoopy attempts to break the Ruth record, only to be besieged with hate mail. Lucy says in the August 11 strip, "Hank Aaron is a great player . but you! If you break Babe Ruth's record, it'll be a disgrace!" Coincidentally, Snoopy was only one home run short of tying the record (and finished the season as such when Charlie Brown got picked off during Snoopy's last at-bat), and as it turned out, Aaron finished the 1973 season one home run short of Ruth. [66] Babe Ruth's widow, Claire Hodgson, denounced the racism and declared that her husband would have enthusiastically cheered Aaron's attempt at the record. [67] As the 1974 season began, Aaron's pursuit of the record caused a small controversy. The Braves opened the season on the road in Cincinnati with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. Braves management wanted him to break the record in Atlanta and was therefore going to have Aaron sit out the first three games of the season. But Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that he had to play two games in the first series. He played two out of three and tied Babe Ruth's record on April 4, 1974, in his very first at-bat on his first swing of the season—off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham, but did not hit another home run in the series. [68]

The Braves returned to Atlanta, and on April 8, 1974, a crowd of 53,775 people showed up for the game — a Braves attendance record. The game was also broadcast nationally on NBC. In the fourth inning, Aaron hit home run number 715 off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. [10] Although Dodgers outfielder Bill Buckner nearly went over the outfield fence trying to catch it, the ball flew into the Braves' bullpen, where relief pitcher Tom House caught it. While cannons were fired in celebration, two college students [69] sprinted onto the field and jogged alongside Aaron for part of his circuit around the bases, temporarily startling him. A young Craig Sager actually interviewed Aaron between third and home for a television station, WXLT (now WWSB-Channel 40) in Sarasota. [70] As the fans cheered wildly, Aaron's parents ran onto the field as well. Braves announcer Milo Hamilton, calling the game on WSB radio, described the scene as Aaron broke the record:

"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!" [71]

Meanwhile, Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully addressed the racial tension—or apparent lack thereof—in his call of the home run:

"What a marvelous moment for baseball what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron . And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months." [72]

Return to Milwaukee Edit

On October 2, 1974, Aaron hit his 733rd home run in his last at-bat as a Braves player. [73] Aaron commented after the game that it was his last time as a player in Atlanta as his contract had expired. While he considered retirement, he said that he was willing to return to baseball for another year. [74] He had also said that he would be interested in serving as a team’s general manager, someone who would make decisions and not a “house boy”. [75] The Braves offered Aaron a position with the team when he retired, but the role would be more in public relations, rather than one where he could evaluate talent. [76]

At the end of the season, Aaron, who had a prior relationship with Brewers owner Bud Selig, requested a trade to Milwaukee. [77] He was acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers for Dave May thirty-one days later on November 2. [78] Minor league right-handed pitcher Roger Alexander was sent to the Braves to complete the transaction at the Winter Meetings one month later on December 2. [79] The trade re-united Aaron with former teammate Del Crandall, who was now managing the Brewers. He signed a two-year contract with the Brewers for $240,000 per year. [76] Playing in the American League would allow Aaron to serve as a Designated hitter rather than play in the field.

On May 1, 1975, Aaron broke baseball's all-time RBI record, previously held by Ruth with 2,213. That year, he also played in his last and 24th All-Star Game (25th All-Star Game selection [49] ) he lined out to Dave Concepción as a pinch-hitter in the second inning. This All-Star Game, like the first one he played in 1955, was before a home crowd at Milwaukee County Stadium. [80]

Aaron hit his 755th and final home run on July 20, 1976, at Milwaukee County Stadium off Dick Drago of the California Angels, which stood as the MLB career home run record until it was broken in 2007 by Barry Bonds. [81] [82] Over the course of his record-breaking 23-year career, Aaron had a batting average of .305 with 163 hits a season, while averaging just over 32 home runs and 99 RBIs a year. He had 100+ RBIs in a season 15 times, including a record of 13 in a row. [50]

After the 1976 season, Aaron rejoined the Braves as an executive. [24] On August 1, 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, having received votes on 97.8 percent of the ballots, second only to Ty Cobb, who had received votes on 98.2% of the ballot in the inaugural 1936 Hall of Fame election. [83] Aaron was then named the Braves' vice president and director of player development. This made him one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management. [33]

In December 1980, Aaron became senior vice president and assistant to the Braves' president. [33] He was the corporate vice president of community relations for Turner Broadcasting System, a member of the company's board of directors, and the vice president of business development for The Airport Network. [33] On January 21, 2007, Major League Baseball announced the sale of the Atlanta Braves. In that announcement, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also announced that Aaron would be playing a major role in the management of the Braves, forming programs through major league baseball that will encourage the influx of minorities into baseball. [84] Aaron founded the Hank Aaron Rookie League program. [85]

Aaron's autobiography, I Had a Hammer was published in 1990. The book's title is a play on his nickname, "The Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", and the title of the folk song "If I Had a Hammer". Aaron owned Hank Aaron BMW of south Atlanta in Union City, Georgia, where he included an autographed baseball with every car sold. [86] Aaron also owned Mini, Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda dealerships throughout Georgia, as part of the Hank Aaron Automotive Group. Aaron sold all but the Toyota dealership in McDonough in 2007. Additionally, Aaron owned a chain of 30 restaurants around the country.

During the 2006 season, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth and moved into second place on the all-time home run list, attracting growing media coverage as he drew closer to Aaron's record. Playing off the intense interest in their perceived rivalry, Aaron and Bonds made a television commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLI, shortly before the start of the 2007 baseball season, in which Aaron jokingly tried to persuade Bonds to retire before breaking the record. [87] As Bonds began to close in on the record during the 2007 season, Aaron let it be known that, although he recognized Bonds' achievements, he would not be present when Bonds broke the record. [88] There was considerable speculation that this was a snubbing of Bonds based on the widespread belief that Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs and steroids to aid his achievement. However, some observers looked back on Aaron's personal history, pointing out that he had downplayed his own breaking of Babe Ruth's all-time record and suggesting Aaron was simply treating Bonds in a similar fashion. In a later interview with Atlanta sportscasting personality Chris Dimino, Aaron made it clear his reluctance to attend any celebration of a new home run record was based upon his personal conviction that baseball is not about breaking records, but simply playing to the best of one's potential. [88] After Bonds hit his record-breaking 756th home run on August 7, 2007, Aaron made a surprise appearance on the JumboTron video screen at AT&T Park in San Francisco to congratulate Bonds on his accomplishment:

I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader. It is a great accomplishment that required skill, longevity, and determination. Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams. [89]

On January 5, 2021, Aaron publicly received a COVID-19 vaccination at the Morehouse School of Medicine at Atlanta, Georgia. [90] He had received the Moderna vaccine. [91] He and several other African American public figures, including activist Joe Beasley, Andrew Young, and Louis Sullivan did so to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine and encourage other Black Americans to do the same. [90] [92]

He died in his sleep in his Atlanta residence on January 22, two weeks before his 87th birthday. The manner of death was listed as natural causes. [93] [94] [95] [96] [97] An emailed statement to AFP Fact Check from Fulton County medical examiner Karen Sullivan said that "There was no information suggestive of an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to any substance which might be attributable to recent vaccine distribution." [91]

His funeral was held on January 27, followed by his burial at South-View Cemetery. [98]

Aaron's first marriage was to Barbara Lucas in 1953. They had five children: Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, and Hank Jr. He divorced Barbara in 1971 and married Billye Suber Williams on November 13, 1973. With his second wife, he had one child, Ceci. [99]

Religion Edit

Aaron was Catholic, having converted in 1959 with his family. He and his wife first became interested in the faith after the birth of their first child, whom they baptized immediately. [100] A friendship with a Roman Catholic priest later helped lead to Hank and his wife's conversion. Aaron was known to frequently read Thomas à Kempis' 15th-century book The Imitation of Christ, which he kept in his locker. [101]

In an interview in 1991, Aaron credited the priest, Fr. Michael Sablica, with helping him grow as a person in the 1950s. "He taught me what life was all about. But he was more than just a religious friend of mine, he was a friend because he talked as if he was not a priest sometimes." Active in the civil rights movement, the priest encouraged Aaron to be more publicly vocal about causes he believed in. [102]

Sablica also encouraged him to "attend Mass every Sunday" during Spring Training, to which he responded with the racist realities of the day: "[In Bradenton], they won't let me go to Mass." [103] Sablica said in an interview that he wouldn't have blamed Aaron if he stopped practicing, and Aaron indeed attended Friendship Baptist Church toward the end of his life—noting in his autobiography that he didn't remain Catholic for very long after converting. [102] [104]

Hobbies and health Edit

Aaron was a long-time fan of the Cleveland Browns, having attended many games in disguise in their "Dawg Pound" seating section. [105]

Aaron lived in the Atlanta area. [106] In July 2013, media reported that his home was burglarized with jewelry and two BMW vehicles having been stolen. The cars were later recovered. [106]

Aaron suffered from arthritis and had a partial hip replacement after a fall in 2014.

In 1982, Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. [107]

Hank Aaron's number 44 was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1977.
Hank Aaron's number 44 was retired by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976.

Aaron was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1976, from the NAACP. [108] In 1977, Aaron received the American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award. [109] In 1988, Aaron was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame for his time spent on the Eau Claire Bears, Milwaukee Braves, and Milwaukee Brewers. [8]

In 1999, major league baseball created the Hank Aaron Award, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Aaron's surpassing of Babe Ruth's career home run mark of 714 home runs and to honor Aaron's contributions to baseball. [110] The award is given annually to the baseball hitters voted the most effective in each respective league. That same year, baseball fans named Aaron to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. [111] In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Aaron on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. [112]

When the city of Atlanta was converting Centennial Olympic Stadium into a new baseball stadium, many local residents hoped the stadium would be named for Aaron. When the stadium was instead named Turner Field (after Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner), a section of Capitol Avenue running past the stadium was renamed Hank Aaron Drive. The stadium's street number is 755, after Aaron's total number of home runs the 755 street number was retained for Turner Field's replacement, Truist Park. In April 1997, a new baseball facility for the AA Mobile Bay Bears constructed in Aaron's hometown of Mobile, Alabama was named Hank Aaron Stadium. [113] Georgia State University acquired Turner Field and has since rebuilt it as Center Parc Stadium, in 2017, and university officials plan to build a new baseball park on the former Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium site, incorporating the left field wall where Aaron hit his record-breaking home run. [114]

On February 5, 1999, at his 65th birthday celebration, Major League Baseball announced the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award. [115] The award honors the best overall offensive performer in the American and National League. It was the first major award to be introduced in more than thirty years and had the distinction of being the first award named after a player who was still alive. [116] Later that year, he ranked fifth on The Sporting News ' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, [117] and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. [118]

In June 2000 Tufts University awarded Aaron an honorary Doctor of Public Service. [119] In July 2000 and again in July 2002, Aaron threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Turner Field and Miller Park now named American Family Field, respectively. [120]

On January 8, 2001, Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. [121] He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in June 2002. [122] In 2001, a recreational trail in Milwaukee connecting American Family Field with Lake Michigan along the Menomonee River was dedicated as the "Hank Aaron State Trail". Aaron attended the dedication. Aaron was on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service. [123]

In 2002, Aaron was honored with the "Lombardi Award of Excellence" from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. The award was created to honor Vince Lombardi's legacy and is awarded annually to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of the coach. [124]

Aaron dedicated the new exhibit "Hank Aaron-Chasing the Dream" at the Baseball Hall of Fame on April 25, 2009. [125] Statues of Aaron stand outside the front entrance of both Turner Field and American Family Field. There is also a statue of him as an 18-year-old shortstop outside Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he played his first season in the Braves' minor league system. [126]

He was named a 2010 Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society, in conjunction with the Governor of Georgia, to recognize accomplishments and community service that reflect the ideals of the founding body of Trustees, which governed the Georgia colony from 1732 to 1752. [127]

In 2011, the President of Princeton University Shirley M. Tilghman awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Aaron. [128] [129]

In November 2015, Aaron was one of the five inaugural recipients of the Portrait of a Nation Prize, an award granted by the National Portrait Gallery in recognition of "exemplary achievements in the fields of civil rights, business, entertainment, science, and sports." [130] [131]

In January 2016, Aaron received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette from Akihito, the Emperor of Japan. [132]

On April 14, 2017, Aaron threw out the first pitch at SunTrust Park now called Truist Park at 83 years old. [133] [134]

The Elite Development Invitational, a youth baseball tournament organized by the Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to increase diversity in the sport, was renamed the Hank Aaron Invitational for the 2019 season. [135]

Atlanta-area sports teams plan to honor Aaron during the 2021 seasons. The Arthur Blank-owned Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, along with Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have plans during their 2021 seasons to reserve 44 for Aaron. It is expected the Gwinnett County professional teams, the AAA Gwinnett Stripers (2021 season) and AA Atlanta Gladiators (2021-22 season), will also be involved in temporarily retiring Aaron's 44. (The NBA's Atlanta Hawks had previously retired No. 44 for Pete Maravich.) [136] Also in Atlanta, the Forrest Hill Academy was renamed the Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy in April 2021. The alternative high school had been named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a general in the Confederate Army and the Ku Klux Klan's first Grand Wizard. [137]


What the legendary Hank Aaron meant to Cincinnati baseball

"Henry was a type of guy — you played against him but you pulled for him because he was such a great guy," Rose told WCPO Friday afternoon.

Aaron, one of baseball's greatest legends who hit 755 career home runs, died Friday. The Hall of Famer was 86.

MLB.com wrote Friday that Aaron is one of the most significant figures in American history for how he persevered through racism during his career and became a civil rights advocate.

"He's a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word on and off the field," Reds Hall of Fame and Museum executive director Rick Walls said. "What he stands for is big for baseball and connected to the Reds in many ways."

Cincinnati was an important city to Aaron during his career.

The Reds Hall of Fame and Museum has several items related to Aaron's career, including game-used bats, scorecards and a warm-up jacket.

"He was a really good baseball player," Rose said. "I mean he could run, he could play defense. He could steal bases — 755 home runs. One of three people to get over 2,000 RBIs."

Aaron made his major league debut at Crosley Field in 1954. In that game, Aaron faced left-hander Joe Nuxhall, who later became a legend in the Reds radio booth.

When Rose made his first Major League Baseball All-Star Game appearance in 1965 in Minneapolis, he found himself sitting between Aaron and San Francisco Giants outfielder Willie Mays a day before the game.

"I'll never forget how out of their way they went to make me feel comfortable," Rose said. "To make me feel like I was one of the guys."

Rose saw Aaron reach 3,000 career hits in May 1970 at Crosley Field.

A little more than a month later, the Reds moved to Riverfront Stadium, where Rose and Aaron were All-Star Game teammates for the game in Cincinnati.

Four years later, Aaron tied Babe Ruth with his 714th career home run off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham on Opening Day 1974 at Riverfront Stadium.

Former longtime Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman – in his first game in the Reds radio booth – made the call on Aaron's home run.

Aaron visited Great American Ball Park for the Civil Rights game in 2009 and the MLB All-Star Game in 2015.

"He had events at the Freedom Center and on the field," Walls said. "Everyone wants to get close to him when he was there. He was looked at as the god in baseball and it was Hank Aaron and it was amazing."

Aaron began his career in baseball in 1951 with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro leagues. Just seven months after starting with them, he signed with the Boston Braves.

He stayed with the team for 21 years when they moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta. He debuted in a major league game in 1954 in Milwaukee, after left fielder Bobby Thomson broke an ankle.

In 1974, Aaron hit home run number 715 in a game against the Dodgers, beating Babe Ruth's record. By the end of his baseball career, he would hit 755 home runs.

He came back to Milwaukee in 1975 to finish his career with the Brewers.

Aaron became the first player in the MLB to record 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

Earlier this month, Aaron joined several civil rights leaders who received the COVID-19 vaccine at the Morehouse School of Medicine.



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