A Talk With Major League Baseball Legend and Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents highlights of a conversation with Hank Aaron, Civil Rights Activist, Major League Baseball legend, Hall of Famer, and senior vice president of the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, Inc., at the 2015 Tom Johnson Lecture series.
Before joining the Atlanta Braves front office, Aaron enjoyed a 23-year major league career during which he rewrote baseball’s hitting record book. He holds more major league batting records than any other player in the game’s history. On May 17, 1970, Aaron became the first player to compile both 3,000 career hits and more than 500 home runs. Along with Frank Robinson, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, NY, on August 1, 1982.
Born Henry Louis Aaron in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934, the day before Babe Ruth's thirty-ninth birthday. He was the third of eight children born to Estella and Herbert Aaron. Raised in Toulminville, a small town on the outskirts of Mobile, Aaron attended Central High School and finished school at Josephine Allen Institute.
Aaron made his Major League debut on Tuesday, April 13, 1954, at age 20, when a spring training injury to a Braves outfielder created a roster spot for him. Following a respectable first year (he hit .280), he charged through the 1955 season with a blend of power (27 home runs), run production (106 runs batted in), and average (.328) that would come to define his long career. Also in 1955 Aaron earned the first of his twenty-one consecutive All-Star slots. In 1956, after winning the first of two batting titles, Aaron registered an unrivaled 1957 season, taking home the National League MVP and nearly nabbing the Triple Crown by hitting 44 home runs, knocking in another 132, and batting .322.
Aaron is among a handful of sports stars whose achievement transcended the sphere of athletics. Beginning his pro career just six years after Jackie Robinson broke professional baseball's color barrier, Aaron entered the Major Leagues in a challenging time in the nation's race relations. His dedication, consistency, and poise on and off the field won him the admiration of people of all colors.
With his wife Billye, he is the founder of the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation. Aaron has received numerous civic awards, including the Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Bush, and the Presidential Citizens Medal, awarded by President Clinton.