Byron's Babbles

Hank Aaron: A Pillar Of Baseball

Posted in Baseball, Equity, Hank Aaron, Henry Aaron, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 23, 2021

Yesterday we lost one of my childhood heroes, Henry “Hank” Aaron. I will never forget getting to watch him play, in person, as a kid. And, I can still recreate the room, in my mind, sitting with my dad on April 8, 1974 watching the baseball game that everyone anticipated to be “the one.” The one where Hank Aaron hit number 715 and broke Babe Ruth’s record. He did not disappoint that night. That was probably the most famous home run ever.

The part of the story that still has an impact on me was all the hate that surrounded Aaron as he approached the 715 milestone. All of the racial hatred that surrounded that moment, the hate mail, the death threats, and fear of his teammates at that time were just unbelievable. At age 11, I was having trouble processing these stories and, in reality, most of those stories didn’t come out till later, but here was this great man that would not be defined by fear or hate. We have come so far and made great strides in terms of equity, but there is still so much to be done. As we reflect on and honor the life of Hank Aaron we need to pledge our continued resolve on the promising path toward equity.

After his retirement, Aaron joined the Braves’ front office working in a variety of jobs, including player development and community relations. He would always remain a blunt and unflinching advocate for civil rights in this country.

“Each time Henry Aaron rounded the bases, he wasn’t just chasing a record, he was helping us chase a better version of ourselves — melting away the ice of bigotry to show that we can be better as a nation. He was an American hero. God bless, Henry “Hank” Aaron.”

President Joe Biden on Twitter

I’ll end this tribute to Hank Aaron with his 755th and final home run that came on July 20, 1976, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, off Angels right-hander Dick Drago. His home-run mark stood until Barry Bonds hit his 756th on Aug. 7, 2007. The ever gracious Hank Aaron recorded this message to Bonds that was played on the jumbotron that evening, “I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dream.” That was him, always encouraging others to work hard toward their dreams regardless of any circumstance. How about you, are you chasing your dream? Let us not remember this great man for what he did on the baseball field, but for the way he lived his life and the example he set for us. Thanks, Hammerin’ Hank!

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