For many baseball fans, Hank Aaron will always be the home run king. For those people, hitting 755 home runs long before performance-enhancing drugs made their way into the game will forever trump anything any of today’s players will ever accomplish. But it’s important to remember that Aaron is far more than just baseball’s (former) home run king. He’s a well-rounded player and person who has always been a shining example for others to follow.
Aaron came from humble beginnings in Alabama that helped him take everything that has happened in life in stride, both good and bad. He’s never bought into his own hype and never blinked in the face of adversity. Like a clock, Aaron just keeps on ticking.
Oddly enough, one of the all-time greats flew under the radar early in his big league career with the Milwaukee Braves, a bi-product of sharing a field with the likes of Eddie Matthews, Red Schoendiest, and Warren Spahn. Of course, that didn’t stop him from embarking on a career that would end with him being inducted into the Hall of Fame with the second highest vote total in history, behind only Ty Cobb.
After breaking into the big leagues with the Braves in 1954, Aaron would become one of the most consistent players the game has ever seen. It was that remarkable consistency, not to mention longevity, that allowed him to accumulate 755 career home runs despite never hitting more than 47 in a single season.
Henry Aaron is simply smarter than all the pitchers. He deceives pitchers. One of his secrets is his slow manner, he puts pitchers to sleep.
Ernie Johnson, former major league pitcher
In 1955, Aaron was an All-Star in his second big league season, kicking off a streak of 21 consecutive years as an All-Star. During those 21 seasons, Aaron’s quiet consistency allowed him to slowly but surely approach Babe Ruth’s home run record, forever enshrining him among the game’s greatest hitters – where do you think he belongs on this list?
Hammerin’ Hank also won two batting titles and three Gold Gloves over the course of his career, proving that he was capable of doing more than hitting the long ball. He’s recognized most for his home runs, but Aaron is also the all-time MLB leader in RBIs, extra-base hits, and total bases.
Even after being named National League MVP in 1957, the same year he led the Braves to a World Series championship, Aaron’s quiet consistency kept him out of the spotlight for the most part until he started to close in on Ruth’s record. Unfortunately, the attention he received during that period of time wasn’t all positive.
Despite downplaying his approach of Ruth’s home run record as much as he could, Aaron received piles of hate mail and even death threats during the winter leading up to the 1974 season when he was just one home run shy of the record. Aaron admitted at the time to being worried that he wouldn’t live long enough to break the record and even had an obituary written just in case.
But in the end, Aaron refused to let fear push him to the sidelines. He returned to the field in 1974 amidst hate and animosity from a faction of baseball fans and soon became baseball’s home run king, a title he would officially hold for more than three decades, and for many, a title he still holds.
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 man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron…
And for the first time in a long time, that 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.
Vin Scully following Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run
When his playing days were over, Aaron returned to the Braves as an executive, ultimately becoming one of the first minorities to work in upper management for a major league team. To this day, Aaron continues to hold a senior position with the Braves in addition to other organizations, including TBS. Of course, Aaron will continue to be known primarily for the 755 home runs he hit in the majors, but when all is said and done, that’ll be the least of the things Hank Aaron has accomplished in his life through decades of quiet consistency.