Hammerin’ Hank: A Legacy

By Edward Soper, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
On Friday, Jan 22, the sports world lost one of its greats. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away in his sleep on Friday and the baseball world has been mourning him since the news was confirmed. Aaron played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, his first 20 for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, his final two for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Aaron was constantly reminded that, even though he was an all-time great, he was still a black man in a white man’s world. During his MLB career, Aaron was booed and heckled by racist fans and even received threats of violence against him and his family. Throughout his career, Aaron always had to have a police escort to keep him safe. He was also forced to leave the stadiums he played in through a back door.
“My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of the ballparks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things have put a bad taste in my mouth, and it won’t go away. They carved a piece of my heart away,” Aaron said.
However, as more and more black players entered the league, Aaron became more accepted among baseball fans. His teammates and coaches loved him and were often amazed at just how good Aaron was at baseball.
Aaron was also known as “Hammerin’ Hank” as a nod to his incredible power hitting ability. It was this ability, after all, that would change the face of baseball forever. On April 8, 1974, Aaron would hit his 715th career home run, breaking the record of the great Babe Ruth.
On this day, perhaps for the first time ever, a black man received a standing ovation in the deep south and was greeted at home plate as a hero by his teammates, coaches, parents, and fans that ran onto the field.
However, Aaron said later that what happened on this day ultimately turned him off of baseball.
“It really made me see for the first time a clear picture of what this country is about,” Aaron said. This really reinforces the fact that he needed to beat Ruth’s record in order to gain the respect a white man got for simply waking up in the morning. Without that record, a majority of people in the south simply wouldn’t respect him.
In recent years, Aaron has been celebrated as a baseball legend, and deservedly so. To this day, Aaron remains No. 1 in the major leagues in total bases (6,856) and runs batted in (2,297); No. 2 in at-bats (12,364), behind Pete Rose; No. 3 in hits (3,771), behind Rose and Cobb: and No. 2 in home runs (755) behind Barry Bonds, who broke his record on Aug 7, 2007. A 20-time MLB all-star, Aaron will be remembered as one of the best.
The Atlanta Braves retired his iconic No. 44 jersey number in 1977. Following his death, the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League and Atlanta United announced that they would both be retiring Aaron’s No.44 for their 2021 seasons.
As an Atlanta Braves fan, I can personally say that Hank Aaron will be missed dearly and deserved much better, as all black people did.