This one truly breaks my heart. I have been a Hank Aaron fan for almost as long as I have been a baseball fan. I Had A Hammer is one of the first baseball biographies I ever picked up. When I attempted to play high school basketball one year (I was terrible at it), I was assigned jersey #44. And even though it was a different sport altogether, I still felt honored to wear the same number as the great Henry Aaron.
Henry Louis Aaron was born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama. He played a total of 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, from 1954 through 1976. Twenty-one of those seasons he played with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and two seasons were with the Milwaukee Brewers. His 755 career home runs broke the long-standing MLB record set by Babe Ruth and stood for 33 years. Aaron also hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973 and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times.
Aaron’s chase after Babe Ruth’s career home run record stands as a notable period during his career, and not just because he ultimately did break the record. Aaron received thousands of letters every week during the summer of 1973; and during the 1973-1974 offseason, he received death threats and a large assortment of hate mail from people who did not want to see him break Ruth’s home run mark. Fortunately, Aaron also received mounds of of public support in response to the bigotry. As his autobiography demonstrates, Aaron handled himself with a tremendous amount of dignity throughout this period of undeserved hardship.
Hank Aaron holds the record for the most All-Star selections, with twenty-five, while sharing the record for most All-Star Games played (24) with Willie Mays and Stan Musial. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner, and in 1957, he won the NL MVP Award when the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. Aaron also holds MLB records for the most career RBIs (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856).
After his retirement, Aaron held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves, including senior vice president. Hank Aaron was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility, with an astonishing 97.8% of the vote. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
Henry Aaron died in his sleep on January 22, 2021. Rest in peace.
In case you missed it, yesterday, the minor league team Kansas City T-Bones announced they have changed their name to the Kansas City Monarchs. The name change comes as part of a partnership with the Negro Leagues Museum (also located in Kansas City).
On January 15, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt penned the famous “green light” letter to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. In the letter, President Roosevelt addressed Commissioner Landis’s query about playing baseball in the wake of the Second World War. FDR believed that playing the sport would be good for Americans, and he encouraged baseball owners to hold more night games in order to allow workers to attend games.
On January 8th, results for 1996 Hall of Fame voting revealed that for the first time since 1971, no one was elected by the BBWAA to enter the Hall of Fame. Phil Niekro came the closest to election with 68 percent of the writers’ votes, falling short of the 75 percent needed to be selected. Niekro was selected for the Hall of Fame the following year.
One of the beautiful things about baseball is the history.
Considered the first minor league circuit in baseball history, the Northwestern League was organized in Rockford, Illinois on January 2, 1879. The organization included the Davenport Brown Stockings, Omaha Green Stockings, Dubuque Red Stockings, and Rockford White Stockings. Unfortunately, the stocking league became defunct before the season even came to an end as a result of lacking a fixed schedule and financial mismanagement.
Team standings and league leaders are listed in the charts below, courtesy of Baseball Reference:
During a session held on December 15, 1910 at the Hotel Breslin in New York, National League president Tom Lynch announced to owners that umpires would be required to take what he called a “severe” eye test before the start of the season. As a result of the decree, any arbitrator found to have defective eyesight would not be permitted to work.
To this day, MLB umpires are required to demonstrate 20/20 vision, either with or without corrective lenses.
On December 10, 1924, the American League and National League agreed to a rotation system for the World Series. According to the agreement, Games 1 and 2 would take place at one league’s park, the next three at the other team’s home field, with the final two games (if needed) back at the first venue. The NL was granted the inaugural advantage in following season’s Fall Classic.
As a part of their world tour, on December 6, 1913, the White Sox defeated the Giants, 9-4, at Keio University Stadium in Tokyo. The following day, a combined squad beat the Keio University team, 16-3, before the White Sox went on to best the Giants again, 12-3.
On November 17, 1960, ownership of the American League’s new expansion team was awarded to Elvin Quesada, a Washington native and head of the Federal Aviation Administration. The new expansion Senators replaced the old team, which had moved to Minnesota to become the Twins.