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Hammering Hank- The Henry Aaron Story

Posted by on April 9, 2012 at 8:15 PM

On April 8, 1974, Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves became the all-time leading home run hitter, surpassing the record of Babe Ruth that had stood for 39 years. Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers serves up home run number 715 in this historic home run call: It was a long journey for Henry Louis Aaron from his poor upbringing in Mobile, Alabama to his stint in the Negro Leagues and finally an opportunity to break in with the Milwaukee Braves when a spring training injury allowed him to play second base. He was converted to an outfielder, and became a Braves legend as he brought a World Championship to Milwaukee in 1957 ( series which he lead his team with 3 home runs and a .393 average). He followed the team to Atlanta in 1966 and starred for several more years. During his historic pursuit of Babe Ruth's long standing home run record, Aaron endured death threats, in the form of letters, telegrams and phone calls. Agonizingly, he ended the 1973 season with 713 home runs, just one short of Ruth's record. Aaron continued to endure racial taunts and slurs, although as shown here below, he did take the time to enjoy his new found celebrity in the form of a Dean Martin Roast: After his record breaking home run in 1974, Aaron moved back to Milwaukee where it all began to play with the American League Milwaukee Brewers as a designated hitter. He ended his career in 1976 with 755 home runs. Since his retirement, Aaron has stayed an active part of baseball, the sport's eloquent statesman and the face of greatness. Even as he nears his 80th year, Aaron continues to bring class to the sport. Here is a breakdown of some other historic Henry Aaron home runs: Number Pitcher/Team Date 1 Vic Raschi-St. Louis Cardinals April 23, 1954 100 Don Gross- Cincinnati Reds August 15, 1957 200 Ron Kline- St. Louis Cardinals July 3, 1960 300 Roger Craig- New York Mets April 19, 1963 400 Bo Belinsky- Philadelphia Phillies April 20, 1966 500 Mike McCormick-San Francisco July 14, 1968 600 Gaylord Perry- San Francisco April 27, 1971 700 Ken Brett- Philadelphia Phillies July 21, 1973 714 (ties Ruth) Jack Billingham- Cincinnati Reds April 4, 1974 715 (beats Ruth) Al Downing- Los Angeles Dodgers April 8, 1974 755 (last HR) Dick Drago- California Angels July 20, 1976 Aaron was more than a home run hitter. He was an extremely dangerous hitter who 36 years after retiring still holds the all time record for runs batted in with 2297. The current leader is Alex Rodriguez with 1893 (going into 2012 season). Aaron hit .310 in his career and ended up with 3771 hits, third most in major league history. He played from 1954 to 1976 and it was his consistency and durability that is a huge inspiration. In a 20 season span from 1955 to 1974, Aaron never hit less than 20 or more than 47 home runs. But he was incredibly good, for an incredibly long time. As a young man, I got to see Aaron play on TV. It is hard to tell younger people what that was like. Even watching the clip above, you don't get the full sense, because it is in his 21st season, and after so much success, World Series championships, MVP awards, Gold Gloves, and All-Star teams. My favorite quote about Hank Aaron comes from longtime Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Curt Simmons: "Trying to throw a fastball past Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster." Truly a legend, an inspiration, an incredible example of what belief in ones self, positive attitude and determination can do. Consistency, becomes greatness, greatness becomes legacy. Henry Aaron is amazing on and off the field. I encourage you to reference any baseball site and learn more about Hammering Hank.

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