clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame Nomination #4. Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron was born on February 5th in 1934, in Mobile Alabama. Aaron attended Central High, and as a freshman and sophomore, led his high school baseball teams to two championships. When he turned 15, he was offered a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers, however he failed to make the cut. Two years later Aaron would be signed by the Indianapolis Clowns, who he would help lead to win the 1952 Negro League World Series.

After winning the Negro League World Series, Aaron would receive two MLB contract offers, one was from the NY Giants, the other was from the Boston Braves. The Braves offered Aaron $50 more than the Giants did, and for that reason, Hank Aaron would end up playing for the Milwaukee Braves.

Aaron started his journey to playing in the big leagues in Eau Claire Wisconsin, playing for the Bears in the Class C Northern League. Aaron would be the unanimous selection for the leagues Rookie of the Year Award. In 1953 the Braves (now moved to Milwaukee), promoted Aaron to Jacksonville, their single-A affiliate of the South Atlantic League. Aaron won the league's MVP Award by a large margin as he led the league in just about every offensive category. Aaron was one of the first five African Americans to play in the South Atlantic League, in the racially segregated southeastern United States. Jacksonville manager, Ben Geraghty (please click on link), who Aaron considered to be the "greatest manager who ever lived", helped Aaron survive the racial tensions in the country at the time.

In 1954 Hank Aaron made the jump to the big leagues, when he replaced an injured Bobby Thomson. On April 13th, Aaron would make his first MLB start against Joe Nuxhall and the Cincinnati Reds. Nuxhall would hold Aaron hitless however, Eddie Mathews would homer twice -- the first and second of 863 homeruns Mathews and Aaron would hit as teammates in Milwaukee and later, Atlanta. Vic Rachsi would surrender Aaron's first hit (April 15th), and homerun (April 23rd) later on in 1954.

The following year Hank Aaron, now a fixture in Milwaukee would be selected to his first of 21 consecutive All-Star games. In 1956 Aaron would collect 200 hits for the first of three times in his career, and also win his first of two batting title. Aaron would win his only NL MVP Award in 1957, as he led the league in homeruns (1st of four in his career)  and RBIs (1st of four in his career) while batting .322 (4th in NL).

The Braves would enjoy back-to-back World Series appearances in 1957 and 1958 against the NY Yankees. Aaron would lead the Braves to Milwaukee's only World Series victory in 1957 in seven games, batting .393 and blasting three homeruns. In 1958, the Braves would return to the Fall Classic to play the Yankees, only to lose to NY in seven games. Aaron would bat a respectable .333 in the losing effort.

From 1959 to 1973, Aaron would be a model of consistency, hitting over 30 homeruns in each season except for two. In 14 of those seasons Aaron would finish no worse than 5th in the NL homerun race. Aaron would also finish 5th or better seven times in the race for the NL batting crown. In the outfield, Aaron would collect three consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1958-1960.

On July 14th, 1968, Aaron would become the 8th player in MLB history to slug 500 homeruns, victimizing Mike McCormick of the SF Giants. Roughly one year later (July 31, 1969), Aaron would pass Mickey Mantle with his 537th homerun, trailing only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. In 1970, against the Reds, Aaron would collect his 3000th career hit, which would make him the first member of the 500 HR club to collect 3000 hits.

In 1972, Aaron would crush his 600th career MLB HR off of the Giants Jerry Johnson. Later that year, Aaron would pass Willie Mays for second on the all-time HR list, knock in his 2000th RBI, and break Stan Musial's record for total bases. In 1973, Hank Aaron would hit his 700th HR, and finish the season one homer shy of Babe Ruth's mark at 714.

On the first pitch Hank Aaron received against the Reds' Jack Billingham, Aaron tied Ruth's MLB homerun record, launching homerun #714 into the stands. When the Braves returned home to Atlanta to play the Dodgers, Hank Aaron would hit one of the most famous homeruns in baseball history, as hit #715 off of Al Downing into the Braves bullpen for a new standard. Aaron would end the season with 733 HRs.

In the off-season, the Atlanta Braves would trade Aaron back to Milwaukee for Dave May. Aaron would play two more seasons for the Brewers in the American League, collecting 22 more homeruns, the last #755 off of Angel pitcher, Dick Drago.

Five years later Hank Aaron would be elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, collecting 97.8% of the vote -- the most since Ty Cobb's 98.2% in 1936. After his retirement as a player, Aaron has worked in baseball, holding many management and leadership positions with the Braves and MLB.

Three hundred and ten MLB pitchers would give up homeruns to Hank Aaron in 31 different MLB parks (195 in County Stadium). Seventy-one of his 755 career homeruns came off of 13 different pitchers that were enshrined in MLB's HOF.

Hank Aaron would also play seven seasons with his brother Tommie. In 1969 against the NY Mets, the Aarons would be the first brother teammates in the NL Championship Series. With 768 combined homeruns, the Aarons lead all MLB brother combinations in career homeruns.

As mentioned earlier, a mere $50 is what made Aaron a Milwaukee Brave instead of a NY Giant. There is no denying that an outfield featuring Willie Mays and Hank Aaron would have been beyond legendary. However, that same $50, spent by the Boston Braves is probably one of the largest reasons that the city of Milwaukee can boast at least one World Series championship.