Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Hank Aaron at 85
Muhammad Ali once said of Hank Aaron: "He's the one man I idolize more than myself."
"Trying to sneak a fastball by Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster." - Curt Simmons
Hank Aaron was signed by the Boston Braves after playing for just 3 months at Shortstop for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues. He also received an offer from the New York Giants, but the Braves' offer was for $50 more dollars per month - that's how close it was to Mays and Aaron being teammates.
Instead, they competed against each other for World Series appearances and MVP awards. Hank Aaron won the NL MVP in 1957, the same year he led the Braves to a World Series win against the Yankees. He only won the MVP once, though he had many seasons worthy of consideration, finishing 3rd six different times.
1965 was the last season for the Braves in Milwaukee, and Aaron had a typically outstanding year. 32 Homers, 24 steals, a league leading 40 doubles and a .318/.379/.560 triple slash.
In 1968, Aaron hit his 500th career homer, and he wasn't close to slowing down. During his days in Atlanta, he reached 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBI, passed Stan Musial for 1st All-Time in Total Bases, and most famously, became the All-Time Home Run King.
The US Postal Service presented Aaron with a plaque in the off-season before the 1974 campaign, recognizing that he received more mail than any other person (excluding politicians). The honor was meant to commemorate the thousands of letters that were sent to Aaron weekly on his chase of Babe Ruth's total of 714 Homers. While I'm sure many of the letters were supportive in nature, I can't help but think of the hate mail and death threats that were mixed in on a daily basis. Aaron needed to hire someone to help him manage the incredible volume of mail, and my hope is that at least some of those vile words never had to be read by Aaron personally.
He returned to Milwaukee for his final two seasons, moving to the American League and getting at bats as a Designated Hitter. While his home run total was surpassed, Aaron remains the All-Time leader in Runs Batted In, and Total Bases. His 25 All-Star Selections is a record, and is tied with Willie Mays and Stan Musial for most All-Star Games played. His Rookie season and his final season are the only two years he was not named to an All-Star squad.
"I never want them to forget Babe Ruth. I just want them to remember Hank Aaron." -- Hank Aaron