Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama Feb. 5, 1934 and was one of 7 siblings growing up. His family was extremely poor. As a boy, he helped pick cotton with his father to help the family financially. Aaron also started playing baseball as a young boy. He practiced his swing by hitting bottle caps with sticks. Although he dabbled in other sports, it was always baseball that kept his focus and winning became a byproduct of any team Aaron played for. In high school he helped his team win the Mobile Negro High School Championship before starting his professional career.
After trying out for the Brooklyn Dodgers as a teenager and not making the cut, Aaron joined the Mobile Black bears in the Negro League. Shortly after the starting with the Black Bears, Aaron moved to play with the Indianapolis clowns minor league team. Aaron’s biggest break was when he signed with the Boston Braves, and a Brave is how he is remembered today.
With a career that spanned 22 years it was only once that Hammerin’ Hank Aaron was awarded baseball’s Most Valuable Player award. Although he accumulated 2,297 runs batted in, 1,477 extra base hits, and a total of more than 3,000 career hits, it wasn’t until he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record that he received the praise he deserved. But in some ways, this was the worst part of his career.
As Hank Aaron approached Babe’s record, he received countless racist letters threatening his life and intimidating his family. On April 8, 1974 the Atlanta Braves played in front of a home crowd of 53,775 people, all of whom came to see Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. In the fourth inning they got what they came for as Hank battered the baseball to the Braves’ bullpen off of Dodger’s pitcher Al Downing.
Since his baseball career ended, Aaron has been inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame; he spent time as a Vice President in the Braves’ organization and in 1999 Major League Baseball commissioned the Hank Aaron Award to honor the best overall offensive performer in the American and National Leagues each year. Most recently, Aaron received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush.
Aaron’s life continues to be a symbol of integrity and inspiration for the nation. Baseball continues to play a major part in American life and it is because of men like Aaron, a true hero on and off the field, that inspire young men and women to continue to play from generation to generation.
Source: Biography.com: Hank Aaron
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