Friday, January 22, 2021

Hank Aaron, RIP

Sadly, Henry Louis "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron died today. Wikipedia. 😢 Aaron died in his sleep at the age of 86, two weeks shy of his 87th birthday. He was my baseball hero from 1955 until he retired. I didn't have another one until Greg Maddux circa 1993.

Hank Aaron is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He is 5th all-time in WAR for position players (non-pitchers). His 755 career home runs stood as the MLB record for 33 years, surpassed only by Barry Bonds' 762 attained in 2007. The most homers Aaron hit in one season was 47. He hit 44, his uniform number, four times. Three of those times he led the league in HRs and RBIs. Bonds hit 50 or more homers in a season only once, with 73. Aaron led the league in batting average twice. (Bonds also did). He was NL MVP in 1957. The Braves won the World Series in 1957. He led the Braves in hitting during the World Series -- 11 hits, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .393 BA. However, fidgety Lew Burdette was MVP of the World Series by pitching and winning 3 complete games, 2 shutouts, against hitters like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, and Elston Howard. Burdette gave up only 2 earned runs, making his ERA 0.67.

Hank Aaron has the most career RBIs and total bases. He is 3rd in career hits with 3771, behind only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame when first eligible in 1982 with 97.8% of the vote.

Hammerin' Hank wasn't a flashy player, and the Milwaukee Braves was a small market team. So he didn't get the level of attention that his peers such as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle did. He was very consistent. His highest number of strikeouts in a season was 97. He was an excellent fielder and baserunner. He was quiet and dignified. After his playing career he was an executive with the Braves and a successful businessman. 

My favorite baseball story about him involved Yogi Berra, the talkative Hall of Fame Yankee catcher who could get in the minds of hitters. Berra said, “Hey kid, you're holding your bat wrong. It's suppose to be with the label up.” Without bothering to check the positioning of his bat, Hank replied, “I didn’t come here to read.” Link.

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