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Henry Aaron

By June 22, 2024Commentary

The most notable thing, once again, about Henry Aaron’s baseball career is how little help he had in developing as a player and how much raw, natural talent he had.  Aaron played little organized baseball in school; and he had an abbreviated minor league career.  He rarely received coaching he could have benefited from.  He was a natural talent–a gifted fielder as well as superb hitter.  He also faced the usual unbelievable discrimination as he grew up and through his baseball career.  He was understandably bitter about this.  It is unfathomable to me that the brutal omnipresent discrimination against African-Americans was allowed to persist as long as it did.  And it adds greatly to any African-American’s accomplishments in that era that they did so in spite of these disadvantages.

I remember watching Aaron and always being impressed with his bearing, with his work ethic, with his steadfastness.  He wasn’t flashy and didn’t naturally play to the crowd, so he wasn’t as popular as Willie Mays, for example, but he was every bit as talented, particularly as a hitter.  He played through pain, he played largely on teams with no chance of winning the pennant or a championship, but he played hard nonetheless.  To me he is immensely admirable as a person, not just a ballplayer.

At the time Aaron broke the record there were people who compared number of games and at bats, home runs per game and at-bats, etc.  Every player who reached these heights faced challenges.  Babe Ruth was his own worst enemy with the lack of care for his body.  He played in some difficult and some easy parks.  He didn’t have to play against African-American pitchers, but he played in an era with little support for players–you played hurt, you played every day, you played every inning.  There were no designated hitters.  Aaron similarly had some advantages and disadvantages.  He holds the home run and other records fair and square.

And as a footnote, as far as I am concerned and I think most serious baseball fans, Henry Aaron still has the career record for number of home runs.  Barry Bonds was a flat-out cheater.  Intentionally using drugs that you know will build up your strength and give you advantage is cheating.  That should not be treated as a record and he should never go into the hall of fame.

The bio I read was The Last Hero, by Howard Bryant.  Really excellently written.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • John Oh says:

    Thanks. Sounds good and I’ll get it at the library. The only comment I would make is that the major league players did not face the competition from the Negro Leagues, but it works both ways. The best are always the best, but Josh Gibson would have had to encounter the highest level pitching in mlb just at Ruth would have had to face the best out of the Negro Leagues. A real loss all around for fans everywhere.

  • Joe kosanda says:

    As with juiced up Barry Bonds , the same with albert Pujols, A-rod, Sammy Sosa. Mark McGwuire, Rafael Palmeiro

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