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Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron.jpg

|200px|Hank Aaron]]
Personal Info
Birth February 5, 1934
Birthplace Mobile, Alabama
Professional Career
Debut April 13, 1954, Milwaukee Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds, Crosley Field
Team(s) As Player

Milwaukee Braves (19541965)
Atlanta Braves (19661974)
Milwaukee Brewers (19751976)

Career Highlights

Career Records
  • Total Bases (6,856)
  • Home Runs (755)
  • RBI (2,297)
  • Extra-Base Hits (long hits) (1,477)
Single Season Records
  • Leader Batting Average: 1956, 1959
  • Home Run Leader: 1957, 1963, 1966, 1967
  • NL hits leader: 1956, 1959
  • NL RBI leader: 1957, 1960, 1963, 1966
Notable Achievements
  • First player to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs
  • Player of the Month for June 1967 and co-Player of the Month for May 1959.
  • Only player to hit at least 30 home runs in 15 seasons
  • Only player to hit at least 20 home runs in 20 seasons (consecutive)
  • Holds MLB record for most consecutive seasons with 150 or more hits (17)

Henry Louis Aaron (born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama) is a retired American baseball player and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aaron is best known for setting the Major League record for most home runs in a career (755), surpassing the previous mark of 714 held by Babe Ruth. Aaron also holds the career marks for runs batted in (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), total bases (6,856), and consecutive seasons with 150 or more hits (17). He won one World Series ring with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, and the National League Most Valuable Player Award the same year. He also earned three Gold Glove Awards and made 24 All-Star appearances. Aaron set a record by receiving votes in the Most Valuable Player balloting for 19 consecutive years (1955-1973).

Early life

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama. While he was born in a section of town referred to as 'Down the Bay', he spent most of his youth in Toulminville. Aaron attended Central High School as a freshman and a sophomore. There he played outfield and third base on the baseball team and helped lead his team to the Negro High School Championship both years. During this time, he also excelled in football.[1][2]

Aaron's last two years of high school were spent at the Josephine Allen Institute, a private high school in Alabama. Aaron was so proficient a ballplayer that he was able to play on the Pritchett Athletics, a semi-pro team, as their shortstop and third baseman. After being seen by scout Ed Scott, he then signed a contract with the Mobile Black Bears for $3 a game. His mother would not allow him to travel, so the contract was only for games played in and around the city. It was on the Black Bears that sports agent Bunny Downs found Aaron.[1][2][3]

Negro league career

By 1951, Aaron had established himself as talented ballplayer. Downs helped the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns sign Longfellow to a contract on November 20th of that year. In return, Aaron helped lead the Clowns to victory in the 1952 Negro League World Series. Shortly thereafter he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He did not make the team.[3][2]

Minor league career

On June 14, 1952, the Boston Braves acquired Aaron's contract for $10,000. The team assigned him to the Eau Claire Bears, the Braves' Northern League farm club. That year, he secured league's Rookie of the Year as the Bears' second baseman. Aaron also received a raise to $350 a month.

In 1953, Aaron was sent to the Jacksonville Tars. Aaron led the league in runs (115), hits (208), doubles (36), RBI (115), and batting average (.362). He won the league's MVP Award and had such a dominant year that one sportswriter was prompted to say, "Henry Aaron led the league in everything except hotel accommodations".[2]

Ben Geraghty was Aaron's manager on the Bears. Former Braves farmhand Pat Jordan said: "Aaron gave [Geraghty] much of the credit for his own swift rise to stardom." [4]

In what turned out to be his last stop before the majors, Aaron played winter ball in Puerto Rico. On March 13, 1954, Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle sliding into second base during a spring training game. The next day Aaron made his first spring training start for the Milwaukee Braves in left field and hit a home run.[2]

Major league career

The early years


Hank Aaron team portrait

On April 13, 1954, Aaron made his major league debut and went 0-for-5 against the Cincinnati Reds' Joe Nuxhall.[2] 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, 1954, Aaron collected his first major league hit, a single off Cardinals pitcher Vic Raschi. Aaron hit his first Major League home run eight days later, also off Raschi. Over the next 122 games, Aaron batted .280 with 13 homers before he suffered a broken ankle on September 5.

The following season, Aaron made his first All-Star team; it was the first of a record-tying 24 All-Star Games appearances.[5] He finished the season with a .314 average, 27 home runs and 106 RBI. Aaron hit .328 in 1956 and captured 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. He batted .322 and led the league in home runs and runs batted in. On September 23, 1957, Aaron hit a two-run home run in the 11th inning of a game against the Cardinals. The win clinched the Braves' first pennant in Milwaukee and Aaron was carried off the field by his teammates. Milwaukee went on to win the World Series against Yankees. Aaron did his part by hitting .393 with three homers and seven RBI.

Prime of career

In 1958 Aaron hit .326, with 30 home runs and 95 RBI. He led the Braves to another pennant, but this time they lost a seven-game Series to the Yankees. Aaron finished 3rd in the MVP race, but picked up his first Gold Glove.

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 two-run home runs in the 1st, 6th and 7th innings. It was the only time in his career that he hit three home runs in a game. The feat was achieved at Seals Stadium in San Francisco against the Giants. [6] On June 8, 1961, Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas became the first four players ever to hit successive home runs in a game.

Aaron nearly won the triple crown in 1963. He lead the league with 44 home runs and 130 RBI and finished second in batting.[7]. He became the third player to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Despite his impressive year, he again finished third in the MVP voting.

The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season. During his days in Atlanta, Aaron reached a number of milestones. Aaron was just the eighth player to hit 500 career home runs. At the time, Aaron was the second youngest player to reach the plateau.[8]

The chase is on

On July 30, 1969 Aaron hit his 537th home run. This moved him into third place on the career home run list behind Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. At the end of the season, Aaron again finished 3rd in the MVP voting.

The next year Aaron reached two career milestones. On May 17, 1970 Aaron collected his 3,000th hit. This was done in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, the team he played his first ever game against. [9] He was the first player get 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs. Also during the year Aaron established the record for most seasons with 30 or more home runs in the National League (12).

On April 27, 1971 Aaron hit his 600th career home run. On July 31, Aaron hit a home run in the All-Star Game for the first time. He hit his 40th home run of the season against the Giants' Jerry Johnson on August 10. This established a National League record for most seasons with 40 or more home runs (seven). He hit 47 home runs during the season and finished third in MVP voting for the 6th time. The 47 home runs marked his one-season high (2nd in league to Willie Stargell's 48 home runs).

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 knocked in the 2,000th run of his career and hit a home run in the first All-Star game in Atlanta. As the year came to a close, Aaron broke Stan Musial's major league record for total bases (6,134).

While many expected Aaron to break the record in 1973, a key moment of the season came on August 6. This was Hank Aaron Day in Wisconsin and the Atlanta Braves played the Milwaukee Brewers in an exhibition game. The guests in attendance included Aaron's first manager with the Braves, "Jolly Cholly" Grimm, his teammate from Jacksonville, Felix Mantilla, Eau Claire president Ron Berganson, and Del Crandall, the catcher for the 1957 World Champion Braves and the current manager of the Brewers. [10]

The only position that the Braves wanted Aaron to play was as the Designated Hitter because the game was held in an American League park. Due to the fact that National League president Chub Feeney could not be reached, it was left up to the umpire, Bruce Froemming to make a decision. Froemming ignored the rule and allowed Aaron to be the DH for the Braves. Later on, National League officials ignored the infraction. [11]

The record

File:Hank aaron jersey.jpg

Hank Aaron's jersey from when he broke Babe Ruth's record

The chase to pass Ruth heated up in the summer of 1973. Aaron received thousands of letters per week. The Braves ended up hiring a secretary named Carla Koplin to help him sort it. [12]

Still, Aaron persevered and at the age of 39 managed to hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats that season. This gave him 713 career home runs at season's end. Over the winter, Aaron endured death threats and a large assortment of racist hate mail from people who did not want to see a black man break Ruth's home run record. In this baseball quote [13] Sports Illustrated exemplified the contempt that Aaron endured:

“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?”[14]

Lewis Grizzard, then sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, became so concerned that he had an obituary written just in case.[citation needed] Aaron did receive a massive flood of public support in response to the bigotry. Babe Ruth's widow, Claire Hodgson, even denounced the racists and declared that her husband would have enthusiastically cheered Aaron's attempt at the record. [15]

Aaron hit Home Run 713 on September 29, 1973. With one day left in the season, many expected Aaron to tie the record. Against the Houston Astros, led by manager Leo Durocher, who once was a roommate of Babe Ruth, a paid attendance of 40,517 watched as Aaron was unable to tie the record. After the game, Aaron stated that his only fear was that he may not live long enough to see the 1974 season. One year earlier, September 30, 1972 was the last day that the legendary Roberto Clemente ever played, as he perished in the offseason. [16]

As the 1974 season began, Aaron's pursuit of the home run record caused a small controversy. The Braves opened the season on the road in Cincinnati with a three game series. Braves management wanted him to break the record in Atlanta. Therefore, they were going to have Aaron sit out the first three games of the season. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that he had to play two out of three.[citation needed] He tied Babe Ruth's record in his very first at bat off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham, but did not hit another home run in the series.

In Atlanta, 53,775 people showed up on April 8, 1974. It was a Braves record for attendance. Aaron hit career home run 715 in the 4th inning off Los Angeles pitcher Al Downing. The ball landed in the Braves bullpen where reliever Tom House caught it. While cannons were fired in celebration, two college students ran alongside Aaron around the base paths. Aaron's mother ran onto the field as well. A few months later, on October 2, 1974, Aaron hit his 733rd and final home run as a Brave.

Thirty days later the Braves traded Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers for Roger Alexander and Dave May. Because the Brewers were an American League team, Aaron could extend his career by taking advantage of the designated hitter rule. Aaron broke baseball's all-time RBI record on May 1, 1975. On July 20, 1976, Hank Aaron hit his 755th and final home run off the California Angels' Dick Drago at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Career statistics

Career Hitting[17]
3,298 12,364 3,771 624 98 755 2,174 2,297 240 1,402 1,383 .305 .374 .555 .929

Post-playing career


Hank Aaron's Plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame

On August 1, 1982 Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and received votes on 97.8 percent of the ballots. At the time, only Ty Cobb received a higher percentage (98.2) of votes cast.[citation needed] Aaron was then named Atlanta's vice president of player development. This made him one one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management.[citation needed]

Since December 1989, he has served as senior vice president and assistant to the Braves' president.[citation needed] He is the corporate vice president of community relations for TBS, a member of the company's board of directors and the vice president of business development for The Airport Network.[citation needed]

On February 5, 1999, at his 65th birthday celebration, Major League Baseball announced the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award[citation needed][18] It was the first major award to be introduced in more than thirty years and it was also the first award named after a player who was still alive.[citation needed] Later that year, he ranked number 5 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

In 2002 Aaron received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

His autobiography I Had a Hammer was published in 1990. The book's title is a play on his nickname, "The Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank". Aaron now owns Hank Aaron BMW of south Atlanta in Union City, GA; where every car is sold with an autographed baseball. He also owns a Hyundai and Honda dealer in Griffin, GA and a Toyota and Scion dealer in McDonough, GA.

Statues of Aaron stand outside the front entrance of both Turner Field and Miller Park. The Braves have honored Aaron as Turner Field's address is 755 Hank Aaron Drive SE. Both the Braves and the Brewers have retired his number. He is the last Negro League player to play in the Major Leagues.


  • Hank Aaron is second behind Japanese baseball player Sadaharu Oh (868) as the all-time home run hitter in recorded baseball history.
  • Tommie Aaron and Hank Aaron combined for the most major league home runs by brothers (Tommie hit 13 career home runs).
  • Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron combined for the most major league home runs by teammates. (Matthews hit 512 career home runs).[19]
  • Aaron has played himself in an episode of Futurama called "A Leela of Her Own", and in an episode of the sitcom "Happy Days".
  • American rapper MC Hammer was given his nickname after initially trying to become a baseball player, and some of his colleagues noted similarities between him and Aaron, who was nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank".
  • The Mobile BayBears, the Class AA minor league team in Aaron's hometown, play in Hank Aaron Stadium.
  • His jersey number during his rookie year was #5, stemming from the fact his birthday was on the 5th of February. The following year, he was given the jersey number he is best remembered for, #44.
  • The nickname "Hammerin' Hank" was coined by Tommy Davidson, the same person who gave Hank Aaron his number #44. Sandy Koufax gave Aaron the name, "Bad Henry." [20]
  • Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax registered his first career strike out against Aaron. However, Aaron hit seventeen career home runs off Don Drysdale, Koufax's longtime teammate. No other pitcher gave up more home runs to Aaron.
  • On September 20, 1965, Aaron hit the last home run by a Milwaukee Braves player at Milwaukee County Stadium.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kappes, Serena. (2005) Hank Aaron, Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 0-8225-3069-4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Allen, Bob & Bill Gilbert. (1999) The 500 Home Run Club, Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1-58261-031-2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Spencer, Lauren. (2003) Hank Aaron, The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8239-3600-7.
  4. Jordan, Pat. A False Spring. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975. ISBN 0-8032-7626-5.
  5. Only Willie Mays and Stan Musial appeared in as many All-Star Games.
  6. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.142, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  7. He finished .007 behind Tommy Davis in batting.
  8. Aaron was 34 years, five months and nine days old. Jimmy Foxx is the youngest to reach the mark.
  9. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.202, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  10. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.129, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  11. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.130, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  12. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.62, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  13. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.64, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  14. Leggett, William. A Tortured Road to 715. Sports Illustrated, p.28, May 28, 1973.
  15. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.25, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  16. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.179, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  18. The award is presented annually to the best hitters in the American League and National League.
  19. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  20. Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.159, ISBN 0-06-072290-8

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Richie Ashburn
National League Batting Champion
Succeeded by:
Stan Musial
Preceded by:
Duke Snider
National League Home Run Champion
Succeeded by:
Ernie Banks
Preceded by:
Don Newcombe
National League Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by:
Ernie Banks
Preceded by:
Willie Mays
Major League Player of the Month
May, 1959 (with Harvey Haddix)
Succeeded by:
Roy Face
Preceded by:
Richie Ashburn
National League Batting Champion
Succeeded by:
Dick Groat
Preceded by:
Willie Mays
National League Home Run Champion
(with Willie McCovey)
Succeeded by:
Willie Mays
Preceded by:
Willie Mays
National League Home Run Champion
Succeeded by:
Willie McCovey
Preceded by:
Roberto Clemente
Major League Player of the Month
June, 1967
Succeeded by:
Jim Ray Hart
Preceded by:
Pete Rose
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
Succeeded by:
Harmon Killebrew
Preceded by:
Babe Ruth
Career home run record holders
1974 – present
Major League Baseball | MLB All-Century Team

Nolan Ryan | Sandy Koufax | Cy Young | Roger Clemens | Bob Gibson | Walter Johnson | Warren Spahn | Christy Mathewson | Lefty Grove
Johnny Bench | Yogi Berra | Lou Gehrig | Mark McGwire | Jackie Robinson | Rogers Hornsby | Mike Schmidt | Brooks Robinson | Cal Ripken, Jr. | Ernie Banks | Honus Wagner
Babe Ruth | Hank Aaron | Ted Williams | Willie Mays | Joe DiMaggio | Mickey Mantle | Ty Cobb | Ken Griffey, Jr. | Pete Rose | Stan Musial