Hank Aaron Biography

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Birth Name: Hank Aaron

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934. He grew up playing baseball, a sport at which he excelled. As a shortstop and third baseman Hank helped lead his high school team to the championship during two consecutive seasons and was so good that he went on to play semi-pro baseball while still attending school. At 15, he moved on to his second team, where he was noticed by scouts and subsequently signed to the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League. The Clowns then went on to win the '52 Negro League World Series. That same year, Major League Baseball's Milwaukee Braves came calling and bought Aaron's contract from the Clowns.

He won his first batting title in 1956 after two years in the big leagues when he hit for a .328 average. He was also named the National League Player of the Year by The Sporting News. The following year, Hank re-tooled his hitting approach and went on to lead the league in home runs with 44 while driving in 132 runs. He was named Most Valuable Player that year also, the only time in his career when he would get the honor. That same year, Aaron hit the pennant clinching home run for the Braves, and the team went on to win the World Series.

During the course of his illustrious career, Aaron went on to play in 21 All-Star Games. He is the all-time leader in career RBI's with 2297, and he also won three Gold Glove awards. However, his biggest accomplishment is career home runs. Despite only leading the league in homers four times, Aaron smacked an amazing 744 over the course of his career. But the feat wasn't easy.

During the summer of 1973, he closed in on the all-time mark of 714 set in 1935 by Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, racism was still an ongoing dilemma in the United States, and as the media hounded him people began writing cruel and threatening letters to Aaron out of resentment of Ruth's record potentially being broken by a black man. He was able to go out on the field every day despite heckling, even from his own fans, and excel at the sport. He finished the '73 season with 713 long balls and needed only one more to tie Ruth's record. But it would have to wait.

The Braves opened the 1974 season on the road in Cincinnati, and for fear of him breaking the record away from Atlanta, team management benched him. But the decision was overturned by the baseball commissioner who ruled that he had to play at least two games in the three game set. Aaron tied Ruth's record in his very first at-bat of the season, but he wouldn't hit another until the team returned home. Then, on April 8, 1974, Hank stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning and launched a deep fly ball toward the Braves' bullpen. The ball sailed over the fence, making baseball history.

Aaron would finish his career back in Wisconsin, this time with the American League Milwaukee Brewers. He hit his final homer in the summer of '76, number 755. After baseball he returned to Atlanta and worked in the team's front office as vice president of player development. Today, "Hammerin' Hank's" record is currently being challenged by veteran slugger Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. It remains to be seen whether Bonds will break the mark, as Bonds had triple knee surgery that kept him off the field and out of the batter's box for the 2005 season. One thing that isn't on Bonds' side-- age. He'll be 42 in July 2006 and will need to hit 52 long balls to tie the mark. Bonds doesn't have the greatest attitude toward his fans and the press, so it also remains to be seen if history repeats itself.

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