He was the best there was and the best there ever will be.
That’s no exaggeration. In baseball Hank Aaron was simply the best, better than all the rest.
Baseball was my first love as a kid growing up in Philadelphia. Of course I rooted for my hometown Phillies. But I knew the Braves, who moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, had this guy Aaron who was the baddest dude to ever step on the field.
He could do it all. But he was most known for his prodigious power at the plate. With quick hands and powerful wrists, Aaron would hit the ball over the fence again and again and again.
I remember sitting in my room in Magnolia Dormitory at Auburn University in spring 1974. I was preoccupied with getting passing grades in my classes and getting dates with the prettiest girls I could find in those days. But I still watched baseball when I could on my little television with the rabbit ears.
I watched the game April 8, 1974, when Aaron hit home run number 715 off the Dodgers’ Al Downing to break Babe Ruth’s exalted record. Because he was black, he dealt with threatening letters and death threats from prejudiced fans not wanting him to surpass the career home run record of Ruth, a white man. Aaron handled everything with class. He just did his job. He didn’t complain. He just kept working and finally achieved his goal.
Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs. His record was eventually broken by Barry Bonds with 762 but Bonds’ achievement will forever be tainted with suspicions that he used performance enhancing drugs.
There are no such questions about Aaron. The Mobile native was simply the best on and off the field. We lost this legendary superstar Jan. 22 when he died at age 86. Rest in peace, number 44.