We join the rest of the baseball world in mourning the loss of Hank Aaron, one of the game’s all time greats.
Hank Aaron retired from baseball in 1976, five years before I was born. I never saw him play. However, I can close my eyes and see his crisp white uniform, double cuatros across the back, lower case “a” on the helmet, as he swings from his heels and knocks out home run number 715. The fan in the stands with the long fisherman net hopeful to catch a souvenir as the ball clears the fence. The players in the bullpen running around jubilantly and the two buffoons who reach Aaron on the field as he passes second base, en route to completing what would become a very historic round tripper.
Babe Ruth was baseball. Babe Ruth was the first true power hitter in the game and he set a record many thought would be unreachable. Hank Aaron reached it. Hank Aaron surpassed it. Hank Aaron etched him name in the record books and minds of every baseball fan across multiple generations, whether they saw him play or not. Hank Aaron became a new face of baseball.
Even though he is known to the game of baseball for all the home runs, what is lesser known is he is the all-time leader in total bases and RBIs. He had over 3700 hits and played in an All-Star game every year he was in the majors, except two. In four years he played in two All-Star games.
Aaron was an MVP and he won a World Series. He had the ability and the hardware, none of which I saw him exhibit or collect.
By the time I was old enough to take an interest in baseball, I came to know of Hank Aaron as an ambassador for Major League Baseball. His face lit up when he smiled and he chuckled as he spoke of the game he played professionally for 23 years of his life.
One didn’t have to see Hank Aaron play to realize how much he loved baseball, how much baseball meant to him and what he meant to the game. As news broke Aaron had passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 86, the tributes began to pour in. And why shouldn’t they? The best way to honor someone is to publicly acknowledge their worth.
So here I am, publicly acknowledging a guy, whose worth to the game is immeasurable. Because Hank Aaron deserves it. From the greatest ball players in the game, to the common fans of the game, he deserves it. Every. Single. Accolade.