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Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, (go to site and click on Hank Aaron for a video), and presented with a Presidental Medal of Honor in 2002. “Hank Aaron overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time. “When I was in a ballpark,” he said, “I felt like I was surrounded by angels, and I had God’s hand on my shoulder.” By steadily pursuing his calling in the face of unreasoning hatred, Hank Aaron has proven himself a great human being, as well as a great athlete.”

Aaron continues to work for equality. In 2007, he was given more power in the Atlanta Braves organization to influence young blacks who are interested in playing baseball. (See here.)

You see, “Hammerin’ Hank” had paid his dues. Voted the National League Most Valuable Player in 1957, (only once), Aaron hit 755 home runs during his Major League career. He holds many of baseball’s most distinguished records, including runs batted in (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), total bases (6,856) and most years with 30 or more home runs (15). He is also in the top five for career hits and runs. He had played 23 years as an outfielder for the Milwaukee (later Atlanta) Braves and Milwaukee Brewers (1954–76).

“[But] around the time that Aaron was acknowledged to be a serious threat to [Babe] Ruth’s lifetime record, the heretofore soft-spoken and reserved, Aaron became more vociferous on the treatment of blacks in baseball’s upper echelon. In 1970, soon after collecting his 3,000th hit, he stated frankly: ‘I have to tell the truth, and when people ask me what progress Negroes have made in baseball, I tell them the Negro hasn’t made any progress on the field. We haven’t made any progress in the commissioner’s office. Even with Monte Irvin in there, I still think it’s tokenism. I think we have a lot of Negroes capable of handling front-office jobs. We don’t have Negro secretaries in some of the big league offices, and I think it’s time that the major leagues and baseball in general just took hold of themselves and started hiring some of these capable people.’ ” (The Baseball

For more information about Hank Aaron, read his autobiography, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story.

Aaron had received hate mail such as this one:

“Dear Super Spook,

First of all I don’t care for the color of shit. You are pretty damn repugnant trying to break Babe Ruth’s record. You boogies will think you have invented baseball or something.”

and this one:

“Dear Mr. Nigger,

I hope you don’t break the Babe’s record. How do I tell my kids that a nigger did it?”

(page 316 of the HarperPaperbacks edition)

Please join me in honoring this fine American during Black History Month and all the time.

February 2008
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