Hank Aaron - A Wrong (Left) is Righted
January 30, 2010
by William Szczepanek
Hank Aaron's home run record has long been broken by Barry Bonds, and we now can appreciate the accomplishments of Hammerin' Hank a little more. His home run record was accomplished with poise, humility and God-given talent. It has been my opinion that he possessed the most beautiful swing in baseball. Powerful wrists and exquisite timing were the key ingredients of his swing.
On May 30, 1956 I saw Hank Aaron for the first time from a lower box seat in Wrigley field on a Memorial Day doubleheader. I sat with my father as I worried about how to avoid getting killed by a foul ball should one come in my direction. My father told me that Aaron was going to be a great player some day. In the first inning, Eddie Matthews, Aaron and Bobby Thomson hit consecutive home runs before Russ Meyer of the Cubs, as was typical of the times, beaned Bill Bruton. Bruton got up slowly, moved toward first base, dropped the bat, then charged the mound. The dugouts emptied and a fight ensued. I didn't know what was going on, but I thought that it looked cool with 50 players in the infield. The fire didn't last long as the Braves went into a tailspin after this series. Charlie Grimm, Braves manager, lost his job and was replaced by Fred Haney, who turned the team around, but not enough to catch the Dodgers, though he did lead the Braves to the World Series in 1957 and 1958.
This was Aaron's 45th home run of his career. He hit number 46 in the second game of this double header. I also got to see Aaron's 599th home run fifteen years later in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium on April 21, 1971.
Aaron never got the attention he deserved. He just played day after day and the home runs continued. Never had an athlete who had done so much been ignored for so long. Maybe because he was never flamboyant in any way he didn't draw much attention, not even his accomplishments. He was once asked by a young reported what he looked for when he entered the batter's box. His simple reply, "The ball." He looked at baseball as a job to do and he did it well.
Aaron's 1957 card shown at the top is a fantastic card with one major flaw. It was printed backwards. I guess because Hank entered the 1957 season with only 66 career home runs, it didn't seem worth the trouble to Topps to fix the card. Topps should reprint the card in the right direction to honor the greatest home run hitter of all time. Since I don't expect them to do that I have taken this opportunity to do it myself. Henry looks much better from this side of the batter's box. ---
You can check out Aaron's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.