|Henry (Hank) Aaron
Nickname: "The Hammer"
Born: February 5, 1934 (Mobile, AL)
ML Debut: April 13, 1954.
Final Game: October 3, 1976.
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Hall of Fame: 1982 (Baseball Writers; 406 votes on 415 ballots; 97.83%)
Played for Milwaukee Braves (1954-1965), Atlanta Braves (1966-1974), Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976)
Postseason: 1957 World Series, 1958 World Series
All Star 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975.
NL MVP 1957
Gold Glove 1958, 1959, 1960
Henry (Hank) Aaron was 18 years old when he began his professional baseball career as a shortstop for the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns. Though he was slight of build (160 lbs.) and hit cross-handed, his contract was purchased by the Boston Braves f0r $10,000 in June 1952. He would be the last Negro Leaguer to jump to the majors. Aaron spent a couple of years in the minors before starting for the Braves -- now in Milwaukee -- in left field, replacing the injured Bobby Thompson. While in the minors, with the Jacksonville Tars, he was the South Atlantic League's MVP with a .362 batting average and 115 RBIs, and the following season was the Northern League's Rookie of the Year. In his first season with the Braves, Aaron compiled a .280 average with 13 home runs before breaking his ankle in September. By 1958 he had increased his weight by twenty pounds and was a legitimate power hitter. That year he was league MVP with 44 homers and 132 ribbies. The Braves beat the Yankees in a seven-game world series in which Aaron hit .393 with three homers and seven RBIs.
In twenty seasons -- 1955 through 1974 (during which time the Braves moved to Atlanta) -- Aaron hit 20 or more home runs every year, with 30 or more in fifteen of the seasons, and 40 or more in eight. His best home run season was 1971, when he hit 47. He batted over .300 fourteen times. (His best season batting average was .355 in 1959.) As the 1974 season opened, Aaron had accumulated 713 homers -- one short of Babe Ruth's record. The Braves intended to keep him benched during the opening series at Cincinnati so that he could break Babe's record in front of a home crowd. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered the club to use Aaron in Cincinnati. He tied the record on his first trip to the plate. In his first home game of the season, on April 8, Aaron hit his 715th homer off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his career Aaron appeared in a record-tying 24 All Star Games. (Stan Musial and Willie Mays also appeared in 24.)
In 1975 Aaron returned to Milwaukee and the city's new club, the Brewers. He played two more years before retiring. He held the ML records for extra base hits (1,477), total bases (6,858) and RBIs (2,297). Aaron later went to work in the Atlanta Braves' front office and became vice-president in charge of player development.
-- J. Manning
"The best thing you can say about him is when you walk on the field and you are playing against Hank Aaron you know you're in the big leagues."
-- Pete Rose
"Trying to sneak a pitch past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."
-- Joe Adcock (or Curt Simmons)
"Hank never showed any emotion. The most he would do was clear his throat every once in a while. He was fantastic. He was the best line drive hitter I ever saw. He could have been a .400 hitter if he didn't try to beat Eddie [Mathews] in homers. There was definite competition between the two. Mathews had won the homer title and Hank kept trying to match him. He became a consistent homer hitter, but I think he would have homered just as often by hitting line drives -- to all fields. But he wanted to get more loft on the ball. He had great forearms and wrists. He could be fooled completely and be way out on his front foot and the bat would still be back and he'd just roll his wrists and hit the ball out of the ballpark. He had control over his body. Aaron was the best all-around ballplayer I ever saw -- better than Mantle or Mays. Mays was great, but Aaron did everything he did without the flair .... Willie would pick the ball up in the outfield and throw it into the seats sometimes, while Hank always made perfect throws. He was just nonchalant."
-- Lew Burdette
We Played the Game
"Aaron was a natural. As good as he hit, I think he could have been a little bit better. He could steal bases, but he never stole that many. He could take an extra base, but he never overexerted himself. If we need it, he would do it, but he wouldn't do it every day. He didn't loaf and he'd catch everything, but he didn't hustle as much as Mays. If Willie could see a double, he'd go for it, where Henry would round first and pull up."
-- Bob Buhl
We Played the Game
Most career home runs (755)
Most career RBI (2,297)
Most career extra base hits (1,477)
Most career total bases (6, 856)
Only player to hit at least 30 home runs in 15 seasons
Only player to hit at least 20 home runs in 20 seasons
First player to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Led NL in home runs four times
Led NL in RBI four times
Led NL in batting two times
We Played the Game, Danny Peary (Editor)
Copyright 1994 by Danny Peary
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc. (New York), 2002
available at AMAZON