Q&A with home run king Hank Aaron
Baseball legend recalls some of his career highlights
When Hank Aaron ended his 23-year Hall of Fame career, he held a number of Major League records that still stand today. Although known as the man who dethroned Babe Ruth as home run king, The Hammer did much more than simply hit a record 755 career homers.
Aaron still holds Major League Baseball's all-time records for RBIs (2,297), extra-base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856). His 2,174 career runs tie him with Babe Ruth for fifth place on the all-time list.
Aaron, who was the 1957 National League MVP, spent the first 21 years of his career with the Braves, who during that span played in both Milwaukee and Atlanta. He made his Major League debut in 1954 and retired in 1976, after spending the final two years of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
After retiring, Aaron returned to the Braves and helped them build the strong Minor League system that helped them win an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles. He still serves as one of the club's senior vice presidents.
Recently, Aaron took time to talk to MLB.com about his historic playing career.
MLB.com: You played in an era that followed integration and preceded expansion. Do you feel fortunate to have played in what may have been the game's most competitive era?
Aaron: You think about it. But you don't put much credence in it. When I was chasing Babe Ruth's record, there were people saying that he would have hit way more homers than me if he hadn't played in the Dead Ball Era. You're always going to have people making those kinds of arguments.
I was fortunate to play in an era that was filled with talented players. Every team had one or two future Hall of Famers. For that I'm very proud.
MLB.com: It's obvious that you are one of the greatest players the game will ever see. Do you ever think about that?
Aaron: If you look at all of the things that I did in baseball, I'd have to say that I did as well as any other ballplayer ever has. I was fortunate.
But I have never really thought about being the best. I know that I was a good baseball player. But every year, I went to camp feeling that I needed to prove myself. I think in order to continue motivating yourself, you have to think that way. I still think that way.
MLB.com: The game-winning homer you hit in the 11th inning of a Sept. 23 game against the Cardinals clinched the 1957 National League pennant for the Milwaukee Braves. Do you still consider that to be the most important homer of your career?
Aaron: It wasn't so much because I was the one who hit the home run. We had a very young team at the time and all of us were making contributions and having fun together. For me to hit that home run was what that season was all about. We had a lot of people that contributed to the success of that team.
It was just nice for us to have the chance to give the city of Milwaukee its first pennant. Then to go on and win the World Series was very special.
MLB.com: You helped the Braves get back to the World Series in 1958. But because it was the only one in which you won the championship, was the 1957 season the most memorable one of your career?
Aaron: It really was a year that I'll remember forever. It was definitely a special year. It meant a lot to us players and to the city of Milwaukee.
That city was very good to us. They had great fans and many of us worked there during the winter months. I worked at the Miller Brewing Company and also sold insurance there.
MLB.com : Did you enjoy your days in Milwaukee?
Aaron: Being a young kid, who had never played above Class A ball, it was nice for me to get to play in a city like Milwaukee. I remember one time we were behind by one run and down to our last out. I went up there and bunted for a base hit. All the fans in Milwaukee stood up and cheered. If I'd have been somewhere like New York, they probably would have booed me for making that kind of mistake.
So it was like I had a chance to learn the game at the same time the people of Milwaukee were learning the game.
MLB.com: Did it bother you that 1957 was the only year that you won an MVP Award?
Aaron: It did because I thought I had some great years in which I was deserving of the MVP. Constantly you had to fight the New York players for attention. They had a lot of media members there in New York and there were times you didn't feel like you were getting the attention that you deserved.
MLB.com: You've often spoken about how much you regret not winning a Triple Crown. Do you still think about those years where you came up just a little short?
Aaron: That's the only thing that really bothers me when I think back on my career. I was always two home runs short or a couple points short with my batting average. I know I should have won a couple Triple Crowns.
MLB.com: When the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, racial tensions were still running high in the South. Did you feel the effects of this?
Aaron: There were problems everywhere and there were also good people in every city. I really never felt any different in Atlanta than I did everywhere else.
MLB.com: It's been well documented that you received stacks of hate mail as you got closer to Babe Ruth's record. Do you feel like you were robbed of the enjoyment the chase should have provided?
Aaron: I really didn't enjoy going through the chase. I never talk about it. I try not to talk about it. It was a tough time for me and my family.
MLB.com: What do you remember most about the night that you became Major League Baseball's home run king?
Aaron: It was all kind of a blur. I just remember getting to the plate and my mother already being there. To this day, I don't know how she got there so quickly. She gave me a tight hug. It was really a special moment.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.