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Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron 1974.jpg
Aaron with the Atlanta Braves in 1974
Right fielder
Born: (1934-02-05)February 5, 1934
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
Died: January 22, 2021(2021-01-22) (aged 86)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Batted: Right Threw: Right
April 13, 1954, for the Milwaukee Braves
Last appearance
October 3, 1976, for the Milwaukee Brewers
MLB statistics
Batting average .305
Hits 3,771
Home runs 755
Runs batted in 2,297
Career highlights and awards

MLB records

  • 2,297 career runs batted in
  • 6,856 career total bases
  • 1,477 career extra-base hits
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction 1982
Vote 97.8% (first ballot)

Henry Louis Aaron (February 5, 1934 – January 22, 2021), nicknamed "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", was an American professional baseball right fielder who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), from 1954 through 1976. He spent 21 seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves in the National League (NL) and two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League (AL). At the time of his retirement, Aaron held most of the game's key career power-hitting records. He broke the long-standing MLB record for home runs held by Babe Ruth and remained the career leader for 33 years. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973 and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. He is considered one of the greatest baseball players in history.

Early life

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Herbert Aaron Sr. and Estella (Pritchett) Aaron. He had seven siblings. While he was born in a section of Mobile referred to as "Down the Bay", he spent most of his youth in Toulminville.

Aaron grew up in a poor family. His family could not afford baseball equipment, so he practiced by hitting bottle caps with sticks. He would create his own bats and balls out of materials he found on the streets.

Aaron attended Central High School as a freshman and a sophomore. Like most high schools, they did not have organized baseball, so he played outfield and third base for the Mobile Black Bears, a semipro team. Aaron was a member of the Boy Scouts of America.

Although he batted cross-handed (as a right-handed hitter, with his left hand above his right), Aaron established himself as a power hitter. As a result, in 1949, at the age of 15, Aaron had his first tryout with an MLB franchise, the Brooklyn Dodgers; however, he did not make the team.

After this, Aaron returned to school to finish his secondary education, attending the Josephine Allen Institute, a private high school in Alabama. During his junior year, Aaron joined the Prichard Athletics, an independent Negro league team, followed by the Mobile Black Bears, another independent Negro league team. While on the Bears, Aaron earned $3 per game ($30 today), which was a dollar more than he got while on the Athletics.

Professional career outline

Negro and minor leagues

On November 20, 1951, Aaron signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, where he played for three months.

He started play as a 6 ft (180 cm), 180 lb (82 kg) shortstop, and earned $200 per month. As a result of his standout play with the Indianapolis Clowns, Aaron received two offers from MLB teams via telegram, one from the New York Giants and the other from the Boston Braves.

The Braves purchased Aaron's contract from the Clowns for $10,000, which GM John Quinn thought was a steal, as he stated that he felt that Aaron was a $100,000 property. On June 12, 1952, Aaron signed with Braves' scout Dewey Griggs. During this time, he picked up the nickname "pork chops" because it "was the only thing I knew to order off the menu". A teammate later said, "the man ate pork chops three meals a day, two for breakfast".

Aaron played the vast majority of his MLB games in right field, though he appeared at several other infield and outfield positions. By his final MLB season, Aaron was the last former Negro league baseball player on a major league roster. During his time in Major League Baseball, and especially during his run for the home run record, Aaron and his family endured extensive racist threats. His experiences fueled his activism during the civil rights movement.

The 1950s were a period of racial segregation in parts of the United States, especially the southeastern portion of the country. When Aaron traveled around Jacksonville, Florida, and the surrounding areas, he was often separated from his team because of Jim Crow laws. In most circumstances, the team was responsible for arranging housing and meals for its players, but Aaron often had to make his own arrangements. The Braves' manager, Ben Geraghty, tried his best to help Aaron on and off the field.

In 1953, the Braves promoted him to the Jacksonville Braves, their Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Helped by Aaron's performance, the Braves won the league championship that year.

Major league highlights

Hank Aaron played for three major league clubs during his career. He started his career with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, where he played mostly as an outfielder. The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, and Aaron played for them until 1974. After the 1974 season, Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he played out the remainder of his career.

Hank Aaron 1960
Aaron with the Milwaukee Braves in 1960

At his time with the Milwaukee Braves, Aaron was known to family and friends primarily as "Henry". Braves' public relations director Don Davidson, observing Aaron's quiet, reserved nature, began referring to him publicly as "Hank" in order to suggest more accessibility. The nickname quickly gained currency, but "Henry" continued to be cited frequently in the media, both sometimes appearing in the same article, and Aaron would answer to either one. During his rookie year, his other well-known nicknames, "Hammerin' Hank" (by teammates) and "Bad Henry" (by opposing pitchers) are reported to have arisen.

Hank Aaron Braves Jersey signed
Away jersey worn by Aaron during the 1968 or 1969 MLB season.

During his days in Atlanta, Aaron reached several milestones; he was only the eighth player ever to hit 500 career home runs. Aaron was, at the time, the second-youngest player to reach the milestone. On July 31, 1969, Aaron hit his 537th home run; this moved Aaron into third place on the career home run list, after Willie Mays and Babe Ruth.

Aaron himself downplayed the "chase" to surpass Babe Ruth. Aaron received thousands of letters every week during the summer of 1973, including hate mail; the Braves ended up hiring a secretary to help him sort through it. At the end of the 1973 season, Aaron received a plaque from the U.S. Postal Service for receiving more mail (930,000 pieces) than any person excluding politicians.

He tied Babe Ruth's home run record on April 4, 1974. The Braves returned to Atlanta, and on April 8, 1974, a crowd of 53,775 people showed up for the game—a Braves attendance record. The game was also broadcast nationally on NBC. In the fourth inning, Aaron hit home run number 715 off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. As the fans cheered wildly, Aaron's parents ran onto the field as well.

Hank aaron jersey
The Braves' jersey Hank Aaron wore when he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record in 1974
Aaron 715
The fence at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium over which Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run still exists.

Aaron hit his 755th and final home run on July 20, 1976, at Milwaukee County Stadium off Dick Drago of the California Angels, which stood as the MLB career home run record for 31 years until it was broken in 2007 by Barry Bonds. Over the course of his record-breaking 23-year career, Aaron had a batting average of .305 and 163 hits a season, while averaging just over 32 home runs and 99 RBIs a year. He had 100+ RBIs in a season 15 times, including a record of 13 in a row.


After his retirement, Aaron held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves, including the senior vice president. Aaron resided near Atlanta until his death.

Aaron's autobiography, I Had a Hammer was published in 1990. The book's title is a play on his nickname, "The Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", and the title of the folk song "If I Had a Hammer". Aaron owned Hank Aaron BMW of south Atlanta in Union City, Georgia, where he included an autographed baseball with every car sold. Aaron also owned Mini, Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda dealerships throughout Georgia, as part of the Hank Aaron Automotive Group. Aaron sold all but the Toyota dealership in McDonough in 2007. Additionally, Aaron owned a chain of 30 restaurants around the country.


Hank Aaron's Hall of Fame plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame
Hank Aaron's number 44 was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1977.
Hank Aaron's number 44 was retired by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976.
  • In 1988, Aaron was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
  • In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Aaron fifth on its list of the "100 Greatest Baseball Players".
  • In 1982, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
  • That same year, MLB introduced the Hank Aaron Award to recognize the top offensive players in each league.
  • He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
  • He was named a 2010 Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society in recognition of accomplishments that reflect the ideals of Georgia's founders.
President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hank Aaron
Aaron accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President George W. Bush in 2002

Personal life

Hank and Billye Aaron 2002
Aaron with his second wife, Billye

Aaron's first marriage was to Barbara Lucas in 1953. They had five children: Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, and Hank Jr. He divorced Barbara in 1971 and married Billye Suber Williams on November 13, 1973. With his second wife, he had one child, Ceci.

Despite being publicly and professionally known as "Hank," Aaron preferred to go by his given name, "Henry."


In 1958, Aaron's wife noted that during the off-season he liked "to sit and watch those shooting westerns". He also enjoyed cooking and fishing.

Aaron was a long-time fan of the Cleveland Browns, having attended many games in disguise in their "Dawg Pound" seating section.


Aaron died in his sleep in his Atlanta residence on January 22, 2021 at the age of 86. His funeral was held on January 27, followed by his burial at South-View Cemetery.

Interesting facts about Hank Aaron

  • His boyhood idol was baseball star Jackie Robinson.
  • Aaron holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (RBIs) (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856).
  • At the time of his retirement, he had travelled over 12 miles farther on the base paths than any other player in MLB history.
  • Aaron is also third all-time for career hits (3,771) and fifth in runs scored (2,174).
  • He is one of only four players to have at least 17 seasons with 150 or more hits.
  • Aaron's ability as a hitter can be illustrated by his still having over 3,000 hits even without counting any of his home runs.
  • 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).
  • Hank and Tommy Aaron were also the first siblings to appear in a League Championship Series as teammates.
  • Aaron was Catholic, having converted in 1959 with his family.
  • In 1986, Hank Aaron made a guest appearance in "Just Another Fox in the Crowd", episode 30 of Crazy Like a Fox.

Hank aaron quotes

  • "Failure is a part of success."
  • "I don't feel right unless I have a sport to play or at least a way to work up a sweat."
  • "I'm hoping someday that some kid, black or white, will hit more home runs than myself. Whoever it is, I'd be pulling for him."

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hank Aaron para niños

  • 3,000 hit club
  • 500 home run club
  • Aaron Monument
  • Hank Aaron Stadium
  • "A Leela of Her Own"
  • List of Major League Baseball annual doubles leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball annual home run leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball annual runs batted in leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball annual runs scored leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball batting champions
  • List of Major League Baseball career doubles leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career hits leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career runs batted in leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career runs scored leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career stolen bases leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball career triples leaders
  • List of Major League Baseball doubles records
  • List of Major League Baseball home run records
  • List of Major League Baseball individual streaks
  • List of Major League Baseball runs batted in records
  • Major League Baseball titles leaders
  • Ruth-Aaron pairs
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