He put up unbelievable numbers in his career - yet he missed almost all of two seasons after being drafted during the Korean War. Uploaded by baseball-wallpaper.net.
Is he the greatest all-around player in baseball history? I think you can make the case. He had 660 home runs in the non-steroid era, 3,283 hits, a career batting average of .302, and he made the All-Star team a remarkable 24 times. This, despite missing most of two seasons during his prime after being drafted into the Army.
And all that doesn’t even take into account his amazing fielding prowess in center field. He won the Gold Glove twelve times, and anyone who follows baseball knows about “The Catch.” In the eighth inning of Game One of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians hit a drive to deep center field. Mays made a running catch over his shoulder without really looking back, preventing two runs from scoring, and keeping the New York Giants in a game they would eventually win in the 10th inning. The Giants went on to win the Series, the only title Mays won.
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He was named Rookie of the Year in 1951, and won the MVP honor twice (1954, 1965). He spent most of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants, finishing with a brief stint as a New York Met. Interestingly, the Braves scouted Mays before he signed a Major League contract, but declined to sign him. Can you imagine – we could have seen an outfield with Mays in center field and Hank Aaron (Great American Things, October 29, 2009) in right field!
No one knows how Mays got his nickname, the “Say Hey Kid.” We do know that his accomplishments got him named as the “Player of the Decade” for the 1960s by the Sporting News, and that he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (Great American Things, March 26, 2010) on the first ballot…
Hank Aaron is Major League Baseball’s legitimate all-time leader in home runs. Of course I say “legitimate” because he has since been passed by Barry Bonds, who took advantage of baseball’s passive acceptance of steroids to…but wait, I don’t want to get distracted from the achievements of Aaron.
Aaron never really had the spotlight that his remarkable career deserved. All he did was play baseball the way it was meant to be played for 23 seasons. While he played he was overshadowed by flashier stars such as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. When he finally found the spotlight near the end of his playing days, he was reviled for having the nerve to break the career home run record set by baseball’s greatest icon, Babe Ruth (Great American Thing No. 117).
Though he dealt with physical intimidation and death threats, Aaron endured with grace and dignity. Now we can look back and see both his accomplishments and his character in a fresh light.
He not only held the record for the most home runs, but probably more significantly, still has the most RBIs in history. He hit more than 30 home runs for 15 seasons. He has the most extra base hits ever. He’s in the Hall of Fame, of course. But here’s an interesting factoid – of his 755 home runs, 70 came off of pitchers who are fellow Hall of Famers. Tell that to today’s stars who are hitting against essentially minor league pitchers in the big leagues because of the dilution of talent.
Aaron is the last Negro League player to move to the Majors, having played one season for the Indianapolis Clowns. Following that year, he was offered contracts by the New York Giants and the Boston Braves. He later said, “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.”