What Young People Can Learn From Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron
Henry “Hank” Aaron first came to my attention in the 1957 World Series — a few days shy of my sixth birthday.
The ’57 World Series was the first baseball game my family ever watched on a television set. We were farmers, and before then, radio had beamed information and entertainment into our farmhouse for about 40 years.
Family members debated the decision to purchase our first television. It allowed us to see with our eyes the picture of the words we heard on the radio. That clinched the decision to spring for a black-and-white TV set, especially once a late-season home run in the 11th inning by Aaron clinched the National League pennant for the Milwaukee Braves. Seeing Aaron and Billy Burton perform admirably in the outfield and with the bat lit a spark in my six-year-old eyes that I could one day play baseball, too.
And seeing that Aaron and Burton looked like me, a baseball player is what I wanted to be.
Usually, the games that radio broadcast into our hamlet in middle Georgia featured the New York Yankees. I had no idea what the Yankees looked like, but I knew their names: Mantle, Martin, Rizzuto, McDougald, Berra, Ford, and the rest. I had not heard of any of the Braves, but they performed so well that I learned their names: Spahn, Adcock, Burdette, Mathews, Crandall. Bob Buhl always warmed up in the bullpen, which didn’t look like any bullpen we had on the farm.
One player whose name rolled off the announcer’s tongue with an air of importance was Henry “Hank” Aaron. Long before Aaron was “the Hammer,” or “Hammerin’ Hank,” he was Henry “Hank” Aaron. And seeing that Aaron and Burton looked like me, a baseball player is who I wanted to be.
As fate would have it, I didn’t play professional baseball. Instead, I taught on the elementary and college level and practiced law. Now, I sometimes write about baseball, including a book on the Negro Leagues where Aaron got his start: The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro Leagues Baseball.
On the day that “the Hammer” transitioned, 13 days shy of his 87th birthday, I took a trip to the…