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.”