Hammerin’ Hank: 23+ Amazing Facts About Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron, the baseball legend and MLB Hall of Famer, passed away Jan. 22, 2021. During his lifetime, he broke records, racial barriers and fought for equality. Read on to learn a little more about his legacy.

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Wikimedia Commons

Hank Aaron was born Henry Louis Aaron, on Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama.

His nickname was “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank” because of the high numbers of both home-runs and RBIs throughout his career.

A player’s RBI total indicates their number of “Runs Batted In” or how many runs scored as a result from a player’s hit. Hank Aaron had 2297, which is the Major League Baseball all-time record to date.

Smithsonian Institution via Wikimedia Commons

Hank Aaron signed with a scout from the Major League Baseball Boston Braves in 1952, but didn’t start his official MLB career until April 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves (who later moved to Atlanta). 

He hit his first home run on April 23, 1954.

On April 8, 1974 Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record of 714. 

His signature on a Braves jersey is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

He finished his career in Milwaukee with the Brewers, with a total of 755 home runs. This record held for 33 years. 

Hank Aaron’s brother, Tommie Aaron, also played in the MLB. Tommie’s career of 13 home runs brings the MLB-brothers total to 768, the highest combined sibling total ever. 

Wikimedia Commons

Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Hank went pro in 1951 when signed to the Negro American League team, the Indianapolis Clowns.

Because of rampant racism in the United States,  American baseball was segregated. (Blacks and non-white players were not allowed to play on the same team as white players.) The Negro American League began in 1937 (and disbanded in 1962) was one of several”Negro leagues” established during this time.

This segregation in Major League Baseball was also referred to as the Color Line, which Jackie Robinson broke in 1945 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson began playing for the Dodgers in 1947.

Hank said that he decided to become a MLB player after hearing a speech by Robinson. Hank was just 14. 

While playing for the Milwaukee Braves affiliate team, the Jacksonville Tars, Aaron faced rampant discrimination, especially when traveling in the South. He was often forced to travel separately from his (white) teammates and had to eat or sleep in different accommodations.

Throughout his outstanding baseball career, Hank faced prevalent racism. While playing for the (Atlanta) Braves as he approached the season (1974) where he was likely to break Babe Ruth’s record, he began receiving death threats and a tremendous amount of hate mail. There was even a threat to kidnap one of his daughters. None of this stopped him.

Hank Aaron was a supporter of civil rights, the NAACP and countless other humanitarian efforts to better the lives and rights of African-Americans in the US. 

Wikimedia Commons

Hank was dad to five children: Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaie, Hank Jr. and Ceci. 

He wrote an autobiography called I Had a Hammer in 1999. 

He was the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a citizen can be awarded in the United States. 

In 2005, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund awarded him the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. They also established the Hank Aaron Humanitarian in Sports Award.

The famous boxer Muhammad Ali once said that Hank Aaron was, “The only man I idolize more than myself.” 

 In 2001, Hank Aaron was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton. 

Read more about Hank Aaron at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

—Amber Guetebier


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