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one-time holder of the record for most career home runs
Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934, the third of eight children. He attended Central High School as a freshman and sophomore, where he excelled in softball and football. After watching Jackie Robinson play baseball in Mobile, he decided to pursue a baseball career. In 1949, he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the tryout didn't go well and he failed to make the team. He finished his high school years at the Josephine Allen Institute, a private school in Mobile.
Aaron's dream of becoming a professional baseball player came true during his junior year of high school, when he secured a position on the Mobile Black Bears, a minor Negro League team. His performance during his first season led to his being signed by the Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns, on November 20, 1951. He went on to help the team win the 1952 Negro League World Series, while setting a league-leading .467 batting average.
Signed by the National League's Milwaukee Braves on June 14, 1952, Aaron spent his first season playing for the Eau Claire Bears, the Braves' Class-C farm team. Although he only played 87 games that season, he racked up 116 base hits, 89 runs, 9 home runs, 61 RBIs, and a batting average of .336, and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. In 1953, Aaron was moved up to the Class-A Jacksonville Tars, where he led the league with 115 runs, 208 base hits, 36 doubles, 125 RBIs, and .362 batting average, and was again named Most Valuable Player.
Aaron made the move to the Major Leagues on April 13, 1954, when he took the field in place of the injured Bobby Thompson. He hit his first Major League home run on April 23, 1954, against Cardinals pitcher Vic Raschi. His .355 batting average earned him the batting championship in 1959.
When the Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, Aaron moved with them. On May 17, 1970, while playing the Cincinnati Reds in Atlanta, Aaron became the first Major League player ever to reach 3,000 career hits and 500+ home runs, and it soon became apparent that Aaron was destined to break Babe Ruth's record for career home runs. That destiny was realized on April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th homer off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. By the end of the 1974 season Aaron had hit a total of 733 home runs.
Despite his amazing career as a Brave, Aaron allowed himself to be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1974 season. He hit his 755th, and last, home run at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 20, 1976, and played his final game on October 3, 1976.
By the time he retired, Aaron had played in 22 consecutive All-Star games (a record), won 3 Golden Gloves (1958, 1959, and 1960), and had played on one World Series championship team (1957). Although his record of 755 home runs was finally broken by Barry Bonds in 2007, he still holds Major League records for total bases (6,856), extra-base hits (1,477), and runs-batted-in (2,297). Not surprisingly, he was inaugurated into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, the first year he was eligible, with 97.8% of the votes cast.
Since retiring from baseball, Aaron has held corporate positions in various Ted Turner-owned enterprises. His autobiography, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, was published in 1990. Today Aaron is the owner of luxury car dealerships in Georgia.
Hank Aaron Stadium, home of the AA Mobile Bay Bears, was dedicated in 1997. In 1999, Major League Baseball introduced the Hank Aaron Award, which is given annually to the best overall offensive performer in the major leagues. In 2002, President Bush honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Robinson Library >> Baseball >> Biography
This page was last updated on June 14, 2018.