Aaron, Hank

Grades: K-12 Overall Rating: Not Yet Rated

Printer Friendly Version
Aaron, Hank, full name, Henry Louis Aaron, (1934–    ), American baseball player, one of the finest all-around players in the history of the game. Noted for his quick wrists, exceptional durability, and extraordinary consistency, Aaron played 23 major-league seasons (1954–76) and appeared in 24 All-Star games; he hammered at least 20 home runs in each of 20 consecutive seasons, slamming 30 or more in 15 of those years. His career total of 755 home runs was major-league baseball’s all-time record until it was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007. Aaron was born in Mobile, Ala., on Feb. 5, 1934. He played with a semiprofessional team while still in high school and signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League in 1951. The Boston Braves purchased his contract in 1952. After two years in the minors, he joined the Braves (who by then had moved to Milwaukee), and made his major-league debut in April 1954. He emerged as a top star two years later when, playing right field and hitting right-handed for the Braves, he won the National League batting title with an average of .328. In 1957 he led the major leagues in home runs (44) and runs batted in (132), batted .393 and hit three homers in the Braves’ seven-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees, and was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player. Aaron won another league batting crown (1959), led the league in RBIs three more times (1960, 1963, 1966), and captured three more home run titles (1963, 1966, 1967). He also earned three Gold Glove awards for outstanding fielding (1958–60). Moving with the Braves to Atlanta, he hit his 400th homer in 1966, 500th in 1968, 600th in 1971, and 700th in 1973. As he neared one of baseball’s most sacrosanct records— Babe Ruth’s 714 career home runs—Aaron, an African-American, became a target of death threats and hate mail. He tied Ruth’s mark in Cincinnati on opening day, Apr. 4, 1974, and launched his record-setting 715th homer in Atlanta four days later against left-hander Al Downing (1941–) of the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the end of the season he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he spent his last two years as a player. When he retired after the 1976 season, he held many all-time career batting records, including most total bases (6856), extra-base hits (1477), runs batted in (2297), and times at bat (12,364), in addition to his home-run mark. After his playing days, Aaron held executive positions with the Braves and other Atlanta companies. In 1976, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded Aaron with the Spingarn Medal, an annual award recognizing illustrious African Americans in various fields. Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. His autobiography, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story (1991), was a best-seller. His brother, Tommie Aaron (1939–84), was also a major-league player.