Bone Daddy grew up in an era when baseball was king from 1947 to 1965…and there were three crowned princes who ruled the outfields of the games major ballparks….as The Say Hey Kid, The Mick and Hammerin’ Hank became the crowned legends of the game. The first of those legends died in 1995….when Mickey Mantle left a legacy that cannot be denied in the annals of “fan favorites”….as The Mick was the one who most kids of that era wanted to be like the most….and the 2nd crown prince passed yesterday on January 22, 2021….when Hammerin’ Hank moved on to the great sadness of millions of older baseball fans….cuz the young fans of today have no idea who Hank Aaron was….but the truth be known, Hank Aaron was probably the best of the three legends….which means that only The Say Hey Kid is still with us….albeit Willie Mays will turn 90 in May of 2021….and when he is gone….the three greatest players from the era of The Golden Age of Baseball will only remain in the memories of those who grew up with these three legends of the game….which is a dwindling group, since 45+ years have passed since these three legends of baseball stepped on the diamond to play. With Hank Aaron’s passing yesterday, Bone Daddy remembers how great Hammerin’ Hank was….as he grew up loving any and all things that were New York Yankees….while his second favorite team (which was a distant 2nd) was the Milwaukee Braves….featuring Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Alvin Dark, Red Schoendienst, Del Crandall, Lew Burdette and especially Hank Aaron. So, this story of a truly incredible baseball talent that Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was….comes from many years of adoration for one of the greatest talents to ever bless a baseball diamond.
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – MLB Presents – Remembering Hank Aaron – “One of the Greatest To Ever Play The Game”
Henry Louis Aaron (February 5, 1934 – January 22, 2021), nicknamed “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank”, was an American professional baseball right fielder who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), from 1954 through 1976. He spent 21 seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves in the National League (NL) and two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League (AL).
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – ESPN’s Sports Century Presents – Hank Aaron
Aaron is regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time….as his 755 career home runs broke the long-standing MLB record set by Babe Ruth ….and stood as for the next 33 years….while Aaron still holds many other MLB batting records. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973….and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Aaron 5th on its list of the “100 Greatest Baseball Players”…..for which it is hard to believe that there wer 4 others who were actually better than Hammerin’ Hank. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – ESports Special – Hank Aaron Career Highlights
Aaron was born and raised in and around Mobile, Alabama…..and had seven siblings, including Tommie Aaron, who played major-league baseball with him. He appeared briefly in the Negro American League….and in minor league baseball before starting his major league career….and by his final MLB season, Aaron was the last Negro league baseball player on a major league roster.
MLB & News – 2020 – CBS Today Program With Craig Melvin Interview With Hank Aaron – On The Negro Leagues: “There Was So Much Talent”
Aaron played the vast majority of his MLB games in right field….albeit he appeared at several other infield and outfield positions…..while in his last two seasons, he was primarily a designated hitter. Aaron was an NL All-Star for 20 seasons and an AL All-Star for 1 season….as he holds the record for the most All-Star selections (25)…..while sharing the record for most All-Star Games played (24) with Willie Mays and Stan Musial. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner…..and in 1957, he won the NL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award when the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. Aaron holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297 …. extra base hits with 1,477…..and total bases with 6,856…..while also being in the top five for career hits with 3,771….as well as runs with 2,174…. plus, he is one of only four players to have at least 17 seasons with 150 or more hits. Today, Aaron is in 2nd place in home runs with 755….and at-bats with 12,364….while being 3rd place in games played with 3,298. At the time of his retirement, Aaron held most of the game’s key career power hitting records.
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – MLB Special – The Baseball Hall of Fame Remembers Henry Aaron
After his retirement, Aaron held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves, including senior vice president. In 1988, Aaron was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999, MLB introduced the Hank Aaron Award to recognize the top offensive players in each league….plus, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002…..and he was named a 2010 Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society in recognition of accomplishments that reflect the ideals of Georgia’s founders…..as Aaron resided near Atlanta.
MLB – 1959 – Home Run Derby Show Featuring – AL Tigers Al Kaline Vs NL Braves Hank Aaron
While he was born in a section of Mobile referred to as “Down the Bay”, he spent most of his youth in Toulminville….where he grew up in a poor family ….who could not afford baseball equipment….so he practiced by hitting bottle caps with sticks…..as he would create his own bats and balls out of materials he found on the streets. His boyhood idol was baseball star Jackie Robinson. Aaron attended Central High School as a freshman and a sophomore…..where like most high schools, they did not have organized baseball….so he played outfield and third base for the Mobile Black Bears, a semipro team. Although he batted cross-handed (as a right-handed hitter, with his left hand above his right), Aaron established himself as a power hitter. As a result, in 1949, at the age of 15, Aaron had his 1st tryout with an MLB franchise, the Brooklyn Dodgers….however, he did not make the team …..after which he returned to school to finish his secondary education…. while attending the Josephine Allen Institute, a private high school in Alabama. He also attended Central High School in Mobile, AL….when during his junior year, Aaron 1st joined the Prichard Athletics….which was an independent Negro league team….that was followed by the Mobile Black Bears, another independent Negro league team. While on the Bears, Aaron earned $3 per game ($100 today)….which was a dollar more than he got while on the Athletics….then on November 20, 1951, baseball scout Ed Scott signed Aaron to a contract on behalf of the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League….where he played for three months. He started play as a 6 ft (180 cm), 180 lb (82 kg) shortstop….and earned $200 per month. As a result of his standout play with the Indianapolis Clowns, Aaron received two offers from MLB teams via telegram…..with one from the New York Giants and the other from the Boston Braves…..when years later he remembered the he had the Giants contract in his hand and was about to sign….when the Braves offered fifty dollars a month more….and that was the only thing that kept him and Willie Mays from being teammates. Can you imagine having Willie Mays in center field and Hank Aaron in right.
Baseball – 1942 To 1955 – The Negro Leagues – Story Of The Indianapolis Clowns
While with the Clowns he experienced a great deal of racism….as he recalled a time that his team was in Washington, D.C…..when he had breakfast while the team was waiting for the rain to stop….as he recalled how many years later he could still envision sitting with the Clowns in the restaurant behind Griffith Stadium….and hearing the employees at the restaurant breaking all the plates in the kitchen after the team finished eating. Aaron was later quoted as saying “What a horrible sound it was…and even as a kid, the irony of it hit me….for there we were in the capital of the land of freedom and equality….and the had to destroy the plates that had touched the forks that had benn in the mouths of black men….for if dogs had eaten off those plates, they’d have washed them.” The Howe Sports Bureau credits Aaron with a .366 batting average in 26 official Negro league games, with five home runs, 33 runs batted in (RBIs), 41 hits, and nine stolen bases.
MLB – 2020 – MLB Hall Of Fame OF Henry Aaron Tips His Cap To The Negro Leagues
The Braves purchased Aaron’s contract from the Clowns for $10,000…. which GM John Quinn thought was a steal….as he stated that he felt that Aaron was a $100,000 property. On June 12, 1952, Aaron signed with Braves’ scout Dewey Griggs. During this time, he picked up the nickname “pork chops” because it “was the only thing I knew to order off the menu”. A teammate later said, “the man ate pork chops three meals a day, two for breakfast”.
MLB – 2011 – MLB Network Presents – Hank Aaron’s Letter To Don Newcombe On His 85th Birthday
The Braves assigned Aaron to the Eau Claire Bears….which was the Braves’ Northern League Class-C farm team. The 1952 season proved to be very beneficial for Aaron….when while playing in the infield, Aaron continued to develop as a ballplayer….and made the Northern League’s All-Star team. He broke his habit of hitting cross-handed….and adopted the standard hitting technique…when by the end of the season, he had performed so well that the league made him the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year…..albeit he appeared in just 87 games….while scoring 89 runs….plus, having 116 hits….with nine home runs….along with 61 RBIs….and hit for a .336 batting average. During his minor league experience, he was very homesick and faced constant racism, but his brother, Herbert Jr., told him not to give up the opportunity.
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – Baseball Hitting Special – “Why Does Hank Aaron Swing So Much Faster?”
In 1953, the Braves promoted him to the Jacksonville Braves, their Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League….when helped by Aaron’s play, the Braves won the league championship that year….as Aaron led the league in runs (115), hits (208), doubles (36), RBIs (125), total bases (338) and batting average (.362)…..as he won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award….while having such a dominant year that one sportswriter was prompted to say, “Henry Aaron led the league in everything except hotel accommodations.” Aaron’s time with the Braves did not come without problems…..as he was one of the 1st African Americans to play in the league.,,,for the 1950’s were a period of racial segregation in parts of the United States, especially the southeastern portion of the country….so, when Aaron traveled around Jacksonville, Florida, and the surrounding areas, he was often separated from his team because of Jim Crow laws. In most circumstances, the team was responsible for arranging housing and meals for its players….but Aaron often had to make his own arrangements. The Braves’ manager, Ben Geraghty, tried his best to help Aaron on and off the field….when former Braves minor league player and sportswriter Pat Jordan said, “Aaron gave [Geraghty] much of the credit for his own swift rise to stardom.”
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – Mista Midwest “Rest In Peace” Tribute – Hank Aaron Career Highlights
Aaron spent the winter of 1953 playing in Puerto Rico….when Mickey Owen, the team’s manager, helped Aaron with his batting stance….whereas up until then, Aaron had hit most pitches to left field or center field….but after working with Owen, Aaron was able to hit the ball more effectively all over the field. During his stay in Puerto Rico, Owen also helped Aaron transition from second base to the outfield. Aaron had not played well at second base, but Owen noted that Aaron could catch fly balls and throw them well from the outfield to the infield. The stint in Puerto Rico also allowed Aaron to avoid being drafted into military service…..when although the Korean War was over, people were still being drafted. The Braves were able to speak to the draft board, making the case that Aaron could be the player to integrate the Southern Association the following season with the Atlanta Crackers. The board appears to have been convinced, as Aaron was not drafted.
MLB – 1954 To 1976 – The Biography Channel Presents – The Life Story of “The Hammer” Hank Aaron
In 1954, Aaron attended spring training with the major league club….albeit he was on the roster of its farm club….as Milwaukee manager Charley Grimm later stated, “From the start, he did so well I knew we were going to have to carry him.”….then on March 13, 1954, Milwaukee Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson fractured his ankle while sliding into second base during a spring training game. The next day, Aaron made his first spring training start for the Braves’ major league team, playing in left field and hitting a home run. This led Hank Aaron to a major league contract, signed on the final day of spring training, and a Braves uniform with the # 5. On April 13, Aaron made his major league debut and was hitless in five at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds’ left-hander Joe Nuxhall. In the same game, Eddie Mathews hit two home runs, the 1st of a record 863 home runs the pair would hit as teammates. On April 15, Aaron collected his first major league hit, a double off Cardinals’ pitcher Vic Raschi. Aaron hit his first major league home run on April 23, also off Raschi. Over the next 122 games, Aaron batted .280 with 13 homers before he suffered a fractured ankle on September 5….and that is when he changed to # 44….which would turn out to look like a “lucky number” for the slugger…..as he would hit 44 home runs in four different seasons….plus he hit his record-breaking 715th career home run off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing….who coincidentally also wore # 44. At this point, Aaron was known to family and friends primarily as “Henry”….when Braves’ public relations director Don Davidson….while observing Aaron’s quiet, reserved nature, began referring to him publicly as “Hank” in order to suggest more accessibility. The nickname quickly gained currency, but “Henry” continued to be cited frequently in the media, both sometimes appearing in the same article, and Aaron would answer to either one. During his rookie year, his other well-known nicknames, “Hammerin’ Hank” (by teammates) and “Bad Henry” (by opposing pitchers) are reported to have arisen. Sal Maglie recommended throwing low curveballs to Aaron. “He’s going to swing and he’ll go after almost any thing,” Maglie said of the Braves’ slugger. “And he’ll hit almost any thing, so you have to be careful.”
MLB – 1955 – All Star Game Highlights – Featuring Mickey Mantle + Willie Mays + Hank Aaron + Stan Musial
Aaron hit .314 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs, in 1955….when he was named to the NL All-Star roster for the 1st time of a record 21 All-Star selections….and the 1st of a record 25 All-Star Game appearances. In 1956, Aaron hit .328 and captured the 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, as he had his 1st brush with the triple crown. He batted .322, placing 3rd…..and led the league in home runs and runs batted in. On September 23, 1957 in Milwaukee, Aaron hit a two-run walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals, clinching the pennant for the Braves. After touching home plate he was carried off the field by his teammates. It is as of yet the only pennant-clinching walk-off home run in major league history in a non-playoff regular season game. Milwaukee went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees, the defending champions, 4 games to 3….as Aaron did his part by hitting .393 with three homers and seven RBIs. In 1958, Aaron hit .326, with 30 home runs and 95 RBIs….as he led the Braves to another pennant, but this time they lost a seven-game World Series to the Yankees….when Aaron finished 3rd in the MVP race…. and he received his 1st of three Gold Glove Awards. During the next several years, Aaron had some of his best games and best seasons as a major league player…..when on June 21, 1959, against the San Francisco Giants, he hit three two-run home runs….which was the only time in his career that he hit three home runs in a game.
MLB – 1957 – World Series Highlights – New York Yankees Vs Milwaukee Braves
In 1963, Aaron nearly won the triple crown again….when he led the league with 44 home runs and 130 RBIs….and finished 3rd in batting average. In that season, Aaron became the 3rd player to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Despite that, he again finished 3rd in the MVP voting. The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season. On May 10, 1967, he hit an inside-the-park home run against Jim Bunning in Philadelphia….which was his only inside-the-park home run of his career. In 1968, Aaron was the first Atlanta Braves player to hit his 500th career home run….and in 1970, he was the first Atlanta Brave to reach 3,000 career hits.
MLB – 1953 To 1965 – MLB Special – “A Brave New World” – The Story of The Boston Braves Move to Milwaukee in 1953 Then To Atlanta In 1965
During his days in Atlanta, Aaron reached several milestones….as he was only the 8th player ever to hit 500 career home runs….with his 500th coming against Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants on July 14, 1968…. which was exactly one year after former Milwaukee Braves teammate Eddie Mathews had hit his 500th….as Hammerin’ Hank was, at the time, the 2nd-youngest player to reach the milestone. On July 31, 1969, Aaron hit his 537th home run, passing Mickey Mantle’s total….as this moved Aaron into 3rd place on the career home run list, after Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. At the end of the 1969 season, Aaron again finished 3rd in the MVP voting.
MLB – 2021 – MLB Network Special – “Tom Verducci On Hank Aaron’s Swing”
In 1970, Aaron reached two more career milestones….when on May 17, Aaron collected his 3,000th hit in a game against the Cincinnati Reds…. which was the team against whom he played in his 1st major-league game. Aaron then established the record for most seasons with thirty or more home runs in the National League….and on April 27, 1971, Aaron hit his 600th career home run….which was the 3rd major league player ever to do so….then on July 13th, Aaron hit a home run in the All-Star Game for the 1st time. He hit his 40th home run of the season against the Giants’ Jerry Johnson on August 10th….which established a National League record for most seasons with 40 or more home runs at seven…..then at age 37, he hit a career-high 47 home runs during the season….along with a career-high .669 slugging percentage….as once again he finished 3rd in MVP voting for the sixth time. During the strike-shortened season of 1972, Aaron tied and then surpassed Willie Mays for second place on the career home run list….and Aaron also drove in the 2,000th run of his career….and hit a home run in the 1st All-Star game played in Atlanta. As the year came to a close, Aaron broke Stan Musial’s major-league record for total bases with 6,134….which is the record he was the most proud of….even more than his home run record….since it reflected his overall performance as a team player…..as Henry Aaron finished the season with 673 career home runs.
MLB – 1959 – Home Run Derby With Mark Scott – Braves Eddie Mathews Vs Braves Hank Aaron
Aaron himself downplayed the “chase” to surpass Babe Ruth….while baseball enthusiasts and the national media grew increasingly excited as he closed in on the 714 career home runs record. Aaron received thousands of letters every week during the summer of 1973, including hate mail….as the Braves ended up hiring a secretary to help him sort through it.
MLB – 1974 – NBC Sports With Curt Gowdy Presents – Braves Classics: Hank Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth’s HR Record
Then during the next season at age 39….that is when Hammerin’ Hank hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats….while ending the 1973 season one home run short of the record….when he hit home run # 713 on September 29, 1973 and with one day remaining in the season, many expected him to tie the record. But in his final game that year, playing against the Houston Astros….who were managed by Leo Durocher….who had once roomed with Babe Ruth…. but he was unable to achieve this. After the game, Aaron said his only fear was that he might not live to see the 1974 season.
MLB – 2021 – MLB Network Special – Bob Costas Reflects On The Legacy Of Hank Aaron
He was the recipient of death threats and a large assortment of hate mail during the 1973–1974 offseason from people who did not want to see Aaron break Ruth’s nearly sacrosanct home run record…..as the threats also extended to those providing positive press coverage of Aaron. Lewis Grizzard, then executive sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, reported receiving numerous phone calls calling journalists “nigger lovers” for covering Aaron’s chase. While preparing the massive coverage of the home run record, he quietly had an obituary written, afraid that Aaron might be murdered. Sports Illustrated pointedly summarized the racist vitriol that Aaron was forced to endure by writing “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 dignified of athletes, was besieged with hate mail and trapped by the cobwebs and goblins that lurk in baseball’s attic?”
MLB – 1982 – Baseball Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony – Henry Louis Aaron’s Induction Speech
At the end of the 1973 season, Aaron received a plaque from the U.S. Postal Service for receiving more mail (930,000 pieces) than any person excluding politicians. Aaron received an outpouring of public support in response to the bigotry. Newspaper cartoonist Charles Schulz created a series of Peanuts strips printed in August 1973 in which Snoopy attempts to break the Ruth record….only to be besieged with hate mail….when Lucy says in the August 11 strip, “Hank Aaron is a great player … but you! If you break Babe Ruth’s record, it’ll be a disgrace!” Coincidentally, Snoopy was only one home run short of tying the record….and finished the season as such when Charlie Brown got picked off during Snoopy’s last at-bat….and as it turned out, Aaron finished the 1973 season one home run short of Ruth. Babe Ruth’s widow, Claire Hodgson, denounced the racism and declared that her husband would have enthusiastically cheered Aaron’s attempt at the record. As the 1974 season began, Aaron’s pursuit of the record caused a small controversy. The Braves opened the season on the road in Cincinnati with a three-game series against the Reds….when Braves management wanted him to break the record in Atlanta….and were therefore going to have Aaron sit out the 1st three games of the season….but Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that he had to play two games in the 1st series…..when he played two out of three and tied Babe Ruth’s record on April 4, 1974, in his very 1st at bat….which was on his 1st swing of the season off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham….but did not hit another home run in the series.
MLB – 1973 – MLB Presents – “Hank Aaron Hits His 714th Home Run To Tie Babe Ruth”
The Braves returned to Atlanta, and on April 8, 1974, a crowd of 53,775 people showed up for the game….which was a Braves attendance record…. as the game was also broadcast nationally on NBC…..when in the 4th inning, Aaron hit home run number 715 off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing…..and albeit Dodgers outfielder Bill Buckner nearly went over the outfield fence trying to catch it, the ball flew into the Braves’ bullpen…where relief pitcher Tom House caught it. While cannons were fired in celebration, two college students sprinted onto the field and jogged alongside Aaron for part of his circuit around the bases, temporarily startling him. A young Craig Sager actually interviewed Aaron between 3rd base and home for a television station, WXLT (now WWSB-Channel 40) in Sarasota. As the fans cheered wildly, Aaron’s parents ran onto the field as well….when Braves announcer Milo Hamilton, calling the game on WSB radio, described the scene as Aaron broke the record saying “Henry Aaron, inthe 2nd inning walked and scored. He’s sittin’ on 714. Here’s the pitch by Downing… Swinging….There’s a drive into left-center field. That ball is gonna be-eee outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron! The fireworks are going, Henry Aaron is coming around third. His teammates are at home plate…..and listen to this crowd!” Meanwhile, Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully addressed the racial tension—or apparent lack thereof—in his call of the home run by saying “What a marvelous moment for baseball….what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia….what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black mis getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breakinga record of an all-time baseball idol. And for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron. And for the first time in a long time, the poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.” MLB – 1974 – MLB Presents – Vin Scully Calls Hank Aaron’s Historic 715th Home Run