This week marks the 80th birthday of baseball great, Hank Aaron. His hall of fame career history shows that he played 23 seasons, leaving the game as an all-time, home run king, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary mark in 1974.
Hank Aaron is my favorite baseball player, not only for his excellence on the field, but also for exemplifying three traits, if we emulate, will serve us well in life. These traits include consistency, persistency, and dignity.
Hank Aaron’s work was playing baseball, and he went to work every day. Presently, Aaron ranks third in all-time games played at 3,298; he ranks second in career at bats, with 12,364; and he ranks third in plate appearances at 13,941. These achievements make Aaron the only player in the history of the game to be in the top five in these categories. However, more striking is how Aaron produced in those games, at bats, and at plate appearances.
Aaron’s consistency in these important offensive categories clearly makes him one of the greatest players of the game.
For Hank Aaron, persistency represented a commitment to excellence. Powered by the determination he learned from his parents, Aaron was considered an elite player as evident by his record of 20 all-star game selections.
Yet, Aaron’s game was not as flashy as other players of his day, like Willie Mays, resulting in him not being noticed beyond his Milwaukee and later Atlanta fan bases. So, it came as a surprise to many baseball fans when, in 1973, the largely unknown Hank Aaron showed up on the national stage, pursuing one of the most cherished record in America, the all-time homerun record held by Babe Ruth, a baseball icon. This count down chart shows Aaron’s nearly two decades of persistent chase to surpass 715.
Hank Aaron’s determined persistence landed him in the top 15 in home runs in the National League for 20 straight seasons. While he only led the league in homers 3 times, it was Aaron’s persistence that enabled him to pass the Babe.
Hank Aaron’s consistent, determined chase for the all-time home run record was marred by racial taunts and death threats. It was during those times that the country saw the dignity and grace of Aaron. However, for those fans and foes who knew him well, the dignity of the man was always on display. In his book The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, Howard Bryant, reveals Aaron’s support for the Civil Rights moment and in the tradition of Jackie Robinson his fight for equality for African Americans in Major League Baseball. Aaron’s outspokenness did not make him popular at the time; however, the honesty and dignity that he demonstrated in the midst of the negative environment of the time, has garnered Aaron respect beyond the statistics of baseball.
Hank Aaron’s stature as a man of substance has grown mightily@
in the years since his retirement. His influence as a social activist and business man has nearly eclipsed his play on the field. April will mark 40 years since the epic swing that broke the greatest record in sports. However, the most important swing of Hank Aaron is the template he has given us as to how to live a life of consistency, persistency, and dignity.