Friday, May 13, 2011

Hank Aaron

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron (born February 5, 1934), nicknamed "Hammer," "Hammerin' Hank," and "Bad Henry," is a retired American baseball player whose Major League Baseball (MLB) career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. In 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Hank Aaron fifth on their list of "Greatest Baseball Players". After playing with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League and in the minor leagues, Aaron started his major league career in 1954. (He is the last Negro league baseball player to have played in the major leagues.) He played 21 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves in the National League, and his last two years (1975–76) with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League. His most notable achievement was breaking the career home run record set by Babe Ruth. During his professional career, Aaron performed at a consistently high level for an extended period of time. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973, and is the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. Aaron made the All-Star team every year from 1955 until 1975 and won three Gold Glove Awards. In 1957, he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, while that same year, the Braves won the World Series, his one World Series victory during his career. Aaron's consistency helped him to establish a number of important hitting records during his 23-year career. Aaron holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (2,297) and the most career extra base hits (1,477). Hank Aaron is also in the top five for career hits with 3,771 (third) and runs with 2,174, which is tied for fourth with Babe Ruth. He is one of only four players to have at least seventeen seasons with 150 or more hits. He also is in second place in at-bats (12,364), and in third place in games played (3,298).

Hank Aaron Tribute

Hank Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama to Herbert and Estella (Pritchett) Aaron. Aaron had seven siblings. Tommie Aaron, one of his brothers, also went on to play Major League Baseball. By the time Aaron retired, he and his brother held the record for most career home runs by a pair of siblings (768). They were also the first siblings to appear in a League Championship Series as teammates.After relocating to Indianapolis, Indiana, eighteen-year-old Aaron helped the Indianapolis Clowns win the 1952 Negro League World Series. As a result of his standout play, Aaron received two offers from MLB teams via telegram; one offer was from the New York Giants, the other from the then Boston Braves.On March 13, 1954, Milwaukee Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson fractured his ankle while sliding into second base during a spring training game. The next day, Aaron made his first spring training start for the Braves' major league team, playing in left field and hitting a home run. This led Hank Aaron to a major league contract and a Braves uniform with the number five. On April 13, Aaron made his major league debut and was hitless in five at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds' left-hander Joe Nuxhall. In the same game, Eddie Mathews hit two home runs, the first of a record 863 home runs the pair would hit as teammates. On April 15, Aaron collected his first major league hit, a single off Cardinals' pitcher Vic Raschi. Aaron hit his first major league home run on April 23, also off Raschi. Over the next 122 games, Aaron batted .280 with thirteen homers before he suffered a fractured ankle on September 5. He then changed his number to 44, which would turn out to look like a "lucky number" for the slugger. Aaron would hit 44 home runs in four different seasons, Hank Aaron and he would hit his record-breaking 715th career home run off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, who coincidentally also wore number 44. In 1955, Aaron made his first All-Star team; it was the first of a record-tying 21 All-Star Game appearances. He finished the season with a .314 average, 27 home runs and 106 RBI. Aaron hit .328 in 1956 and captured first of two NL batting titles. He was also named The Sporting News NL Player of the Year. In 1957, Aaron won his only NL MVP Award. He batted .322 and led the league in home runs and runs batted in. On September 23, 1957, Aaron hit a two-run walk-off in Milwaukee, clinching the pennant for the Braves and Aaron was carried off the field by his teammates. Milwaukee went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees. Aaron did his part by hitting .393 with three homers and seven RBI. In 1958, Aaron hit .326, with 30 home runs and 95 RBIs. He led the Braves to another pennant, but this time they lost a seven-game World Series to the Yankees. Aaron finished third in the MVP race, but he picked up his first Gold Glove. During his days in Atlanta, Aaron reached a number of milestones; he was only the eighth player ever to hit 500 career home runs, with his 500th coming against Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants on July 14, 1968—exactly one year after former teammate Eddie Mathews had hit his 500th. He was, at the time, the second-youngest player to attain that plateau. Although Aaron himself downplayed the "chase" to surpass Babe Ruth, baseball enthusiasts and the national media grew increasingly excited as he closed in on the home run record. During the summer of 1973 Aaron received thousands of letters every week; the Braves ended up hiring a secretary to help him sort through it.[At the age of 39, Aaron hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats, ending the season one home run short of the record. He hit home run number 713 on September 29, 1973, and with one day remaining in the season, many expected him to tie the record. But in his final game that year, playing against the Houston Astros (led by manager Leo Durocher, who had once roomed with Babe Ruth), he was unable to achieve this. After the game, Aaron stated that his only fear was that he might not live to see the 1974 season.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, having received votes on 97.8 percent of the ballots, second only to Ty Cobb, who had received votes on 98.2% of the ballot in the inaugural 1936 Hall of Fame election. Aaron was then named the Braves' vice president and director of player development. This made him one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management. Since December 1980, he has served as senior vice president and assistant to the Braves' president. He is the corporate vice president of community relations for TBS, a member of the company's board of directors and the vice president of business development for The Airport Network. On January 21, 2007 Major League baseball announced the sale of the Atlanta Braves. In that announcement, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also announced that Aaron would be playing a major role in the management of Braves. He will be forming programs through major league baseball that will encourage the influx of minorities into baseball. On February 5, 1999, at his 65th birthday celebration, Major League Baseball announced the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award. The award was set to honor the best overall offensive performer in the American and National League. It was the first major award to be introduced in more than thirty years and had the distinction of being the first award named after a player who was still alive. Later that year, he ranked fifth on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In July 2000 and again in July 2002, Aaron threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Turner Field and Miller Park, respectively. On January 8, 2001, Hank Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President William Clinton. In June 2002, Aaron received, from President George W. Bush, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

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