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Henry Aaron – The Forgotten Home Run Champion

by on April 13th, 2012

I kind of feel bad for Henry Aaron. He was an incredible home-run hitter in his time and for decades held the home run record with 755 career home runs. He passed Babe Ruth’s record on April 8, 1974 when he hit his 715th home run at home in Atlanta. He went on to hit several more in the next two (and final) years of his career and his record stood long past his retirement until Barry Bonds broke it three decades later in 2007. Some baseball purists don’t believe Barry actually broke the record because of his alleged steroid use, but that’s another matter entirely.

The reason I feel sorry for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron is that despite his incredible achievement, he never really got the attention he deserved. For many, Babe Ruth was a revered player and the mere notion that someone would beat his long-standing home run record was inconceivable. There was a lot of hatred towards Aaron when he chased the record, and unfortunately a lot of it was because he was an African American.

One of my favorite stories about Hank Aaron took place during the 1957 World Series. Yogi Berra, the catcher for the New York Yankees, noticed that Hank Aaron was holding the bat the wrong way. “Turn it around,” he told him, “so you can see the trademark.” But Hank ignored him, keeping his eye on the pitcher’s mound. “Didn’t come up here to read. Came up here to hit.” was his reply.

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