The Big Adios: Hank Aaron
This is a story about a bat, a ball, and a boy who became a man using them. Henry Aaron died this week, he was 86. Better known as Hank, baseball fans watched him at his job – hammerin’ his bat into a ball in the 50s, the 60s, and into the 70s.
And on April 8, 1974, it seemed the whole world was tuned in watching
The call is from a long-time friend of RoseBud – Dodger announcer Vin Scully.
Hank Aaron lived long enough to watch America accept him as the sports hero he’d always been to some. But in a racially divided America of the 50s and 60s, Hank Aaron was not welcomed in many places he played.
In 1953, he played in the minor leagues and won the MVP Award. Yet he could not use the same restaurants or hotels his white teammates did.
That kind of hate never went away. Because from an early age, Hank Aaron was a man who stood up for himself.
And for what was right.
Yes, he was a quiet man, but he wasn’t shy. And he wasn’t blind to the slights that seemed to keep coming his way. He didn’t understand why he didn’t get the attention and endorsements Willie got, or Wilt got, but the truth is, he was always smooth, never flashy.
And there was always a Clyde Frazier or Muhammad Ali in the spotlight. Seemingly leaving Hank in the limelight.
But America – and Major League Baseball – did get better. And in 1999, 25 years after breaking the great Babe Ruth’s record Hank Aaron went on a tour of all the ballparks and fans came and cheered the cheers he had long ago earned.
And Hank was recognized as the great American hero he’d always been the bat and the ball from that homerun – and many others – are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And of course, so is the man, who lived his life on the field and off, as One of the great Americans of all time.