The air is thick with the memories of the baseball legend Hank Aaron who recently left us at the age of 86! Breaking the record by waging the battle against racial oppression, his achievements both as a baseball pro as well as a human being is inimitable. Well, here’s a quick info about some fun facts of Hank Aaron that you are probably unaware about:
1. Hank or Hammer?
Born on Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, Hank Aaron was very much enthusiastic about playing baseball right from his childhood days.Though his official name was ‘Hank Aaron’, he was nick named as ‘Hammer’ which later got fixated as his pet name primarily because of the high numbers of both home-runs and RBIs throughout his career.
2. The mystery behind 2297!
Always a player in the RBI was identified with their number of “Runs Batted In” or the number of runs scored. And 2297 was the score of Hank Aaron for which he is remembered in association with this magical number.
3. The magical number 755!
A long lasting record with a total of 755 home runs was maintained by the legend for about 33 long years. Indeed a remarkable achievement.
4. A True Fighter against Racism
During his life time, because of rampant racism in the United States, American baseball was segregated. (Blacks and non-white players were not allowed to play on the same team as white players.) The Negro American League began in 1937 (and disbanded in 1962) was one of several”Negro leagues” established during this time.
This segregation in Major League Baseball was also referred to as the Color Line, which Jackie Robinson broke in 1945 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson began playing for the Dodgers in 1947.
Hank said that he decided to become a MLB player after hearing a speech by Robinson. Hank was just 14. With his ardent passion and true will power, finally he managed to ward off all those segregation , got into the team and came out with flying colors.
5. A Bitter-Sweet Racial experience
While playing for the Milwaukee Braves affiliate team, the Jacksonville Tars, Aaron faced rampant discrimination, especially when traveling in the South. He was often forced to travel separately from his (white) teammates and had to eat or sleep in different accommodations.
Throughout his outstanding baseball career, Hank faced prevalent racism. While playing for the (Atlanta) Braves as he approached the season (1974) where he was likely to break Babe Ruth’s record, he began receiving death threats and a tremendous amount of hate mail. There was even a threat to kidnap one of his daughters. None of this stopped him.
6. An advocate of Civil Rights
The growing racial segregation in his society which continuously deterred his community from achieving their dreams made him aware of his role as a citizen. This in turn prompted him to take swords against the racial oppressors. Being an advocate of civil rights he got himself involved with countless other humanitarian efforts to better the lives and rights of African-Americans in the US.
7. Autobiography speaks a lot
Hank Aaron, in his autobiography I Had a Hammer published in 1999, narrates about all those painful history of belonging to the racial minority.
8. Achievements and Honours
He was the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a citizen can be awarded in the United States.
In 2005, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund awarded him the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. They also established the Hank Aaron Humanitarian in Sports Award.
The famous boxer Muhammad Ali once said that Hank Aaron was, “The only man I idolize more than myself.”