This one hurts.
Hank Aaron was my favorite player. Hank Aaron was everything that was good about baseball. Hank Aaron was everything good about us.
One by one my boyhood heroes have leaving this Earth. Immortal on the baseball field only. In the past six months we’ve lost Tom Seaver, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Whitey Ford, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Phil Neikro, Don Sutton, and now Hank Aaron.
There was no better ballplayer. Aaron could do it all. Hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, field. Forty-five years after he retired he is still at or near the top of the most important offensive numbers.
Sure, he is second in home runs, bested only by Barry Bonds and cheated his way to the top. But the most important stat in baseball is driving in runs. After all, runs win games and driving them in is proof of your ability to contribute when it matters. Nobody was more clutch than Aaron. He is the all-time leader in runs batted in with 2,297. He is also the all-time leader in total bases. So, he got on base more than anyone and drove more runners home than anyone.
That’s pretty much all you can ask of a batter. And he was the best of all at it.
But what made Aaron so special was his grace and humility. He was good at a time when he didn’t have to shove it in your face. All those years of quiet excellence. Twenty-three years as a major leaguer, twenty-one as an All-Star. Only one MVP, which is a tragedy and a shame. And fourth in Rookie of the Year.
He was dominating early, often, and always.
Aaron hit forty or more home runs in a season eight times. He drive in 100 or more eleven times.
Aaron is top five in home runs (2nd), games played (3rd), plate appearances (2nd), hits (3rd) , runs scored (4th), extra-base hits (1st), and intentional walks (4th).
Oh, and in a total reversal of the modern day player, Aaron rarely struck out. He struck out fewer times than he walked in his career. In fact, in his entire twenty-three year career, one in which only two other players in history have gone to the plate more, Hank Aaron never struck out a hundred times in any season. In fact, his three highest totals were 94, 96, and 97. Get this: Aaron averaged striking out 69 times per year. That’s a month of Joey Gallo.
Aaron never let you down. Never on the field. Never off the field. He was the epitome of grace and humility. Through all the hate and the bigotry and the cruelty.
Thank you, Hank, for all those years. For all that greatness.
This one hurts.