Hank Aaron – Baseball Immortal

Hank Aaron - A Baseball Legend

Background
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Hank Aaron joined the Negro Leagues to become one of America’s most prominent baseball icons. Playing for both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, he set (and broke) many home run records, with a total of 755. In 1982, he was in the baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, the Major League Baseball introduced the Hank Aaron award to honor the best hitters in each league. A stadium was built after him, called the Hank Aaron Stadium, located in Mobile Alabama, which opened in 1997 and can hold up to 6,000 people.

Aaron’s Stats and Significance
However, one of the most prominent reasons why Aaron rose to fame was not just because he was an exceptional baseball player, but because he was able to break the numbers barrier in baseball. On April 8, 1974, Hank hit 715 home runs, ultimately shattering Babe Ruth’s all-time high number of home runs of 714. This accomplishment broke history. He was the first black man to be able to go up against a long time idol, who was also a white man. Fireworks broke out as 50,000 fans cheered him on. For 30 years, this 755 home run streak was untouchable by anyone. Despite numerous death threats and hate letters, Aaron continued to push through and “just kept swinging.”

 

Early Life
Hank came from a family of 8, whose parents, Herbert and Estella, made a living as a tavern owner and a boilermaker's assistant. After welcoming a few more babies, they had to move to a larger home that ended up being a middle-class area of Alabama. At this time, Hank was given a variety of chores such as picking potatoes and delivering ice. Growing up, he focused much more on sports than studies, especially football and baseball. However, due to segregation, only white students were allowed to play actual baseball -- Hank was only able to afford playing softball. After being expelled in his junior year of high school (for consistently skipping class to listen to Dodgers games on the radio), he transferred to a private school that had a baseball specialty program.

 

Introduction to the Major Leagues
Upon turning 18, he quit school and joined the Negros Baseball League. After a short time, Hank was offered and accepted a $10,000 contract with the Braves. In 1954, a door opened itself to Aaron to join left field when a fellow player had a broken ankle. In April, he hit his first home run against the Cardinals. In 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 714 home run, tying against Babe Ruth, 20 years later.

 

Retirement
Aaron eventually retired, becoming the vice president of the Braves team where he became a spokesperson to hiring minorities in major league sports. He published his autobiography "I Had A Hammer" in 2002. In addition, Mr. Aaron also has a string of successful auto dealerships.

During his life, Hank has truly been an inspiration and was able to break all types of barriers. Proving talent isn’t based on the color of your skin. His accomplishments helped pave the road to end segregation and build a foundation of tolerance in professional sports.