Superstardom came late to Aaron, who made the All-Star team in each of his big-league seasons except the first and last. The world came to know him because of his home runs, but home runs weren’t really what made him a great player. He never hit more than 47 in a single season. He batted .301 at age 39. He never struck out 100 times in a year. And here’s the best Aaron stat: If you took away his 755 home runs, he’d still have had 3,016 hits.
I apologize. On the day Henry Aaron died, we shouldn’t be playing fun with numbers. (Although, you must admit, his make for great fun.) He was bigger than his biggest moment, more than his fattest number. His temperament and his surpassing skills made him the only man to take that historic swing. He left all those expressing vitriol because he happened to be Black looking the way such cretins deserve to look. He never gave in to the hatred, never lashed back. He kept on keeping on. He led a long full life.
To borrow the title from the autobiography he wrote with the late Lonnie Wheeler, he had a hammer. He was Hammerin’ Hank, great player, great Atlantan, great man. As we mourn his passing, we must also recognize the reality: We were, and we remain, ennobled by his life.
Baseball legend Hank Aaron died at the age of 86. Here he talks with the AJC about his legacy in a 2014 interview.