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Home | SportsMakers | Hank Aaron
Color: Gray and blue
Food: Lamb chops
Quote: N/A
Season: Summer
Vacation Destination: Cruises
Mobile, Alabama
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 10/1/2016

Baseball player Henry “Hank” Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama on February 5, 1934. His parents, laborer and tavern owner Herbert Aaron, and homemaker Estella Aaron, moved their son to Toulminville, a suburb of Mobile, when he was eight years old. Aaron played baseball whenever he could, so much so that he was expelled from school.

His talent, however, had already been noticed, and in 1951, he joined the semi-pro Mobile Black Bears at the age of 17. A year later, Aaron was offered $200 per month to join the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues. After only a month with the Clowns, Aaron caught the attention of the Milwaukee Braves, part of the recently desegregated Major Leagues, who offered Aaron $350 per month, and paid the Clowns $10,000 to purchase his contract. Aaron spent the rest of the summer playing with a minor league franchise in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The experience was jarring for Southern-bred Aaron, as he was able to play with white players, eat at integrated restaurants, and even associate with white women. After winning the league’s rookie of the year award, Aaron desegregated the South Atlantic League when he was promoted to the Braves’ Jacksonville, Florida affiliate. Aaron arrived in the Major Leagues with Milwaukee in 1954, immediately becoming an offensive force. In 1957, Aaron helped the Braves win the World Series, the only title of his 23 year career. Over the next two decades, Aaron’s name was consistently listed among the league’s leaders in batting average, runs batted in, and home runs. By the end of the 1973 season, Aaron averaged 39 home runs per season, and was only 41 homers behind Babe Ruth. Over the next year, Aaron received frequent hate mail that occasionally contained threats against his life. In spite of the stress, Aaron continued to play at a high level, finishing the season only one home run behind Ruth. Aaron tied the record on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination the next season, and broke it in Atlanta on April 8, 1974. The record breaking blast came off of a pitch from Al Downing, the first black starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After two more seasons with the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron retired in 1976.

Over the years, Aaron has been vocal on issues of race. During and after his playing days, Aaron was critical of the league’s failure to promote African Americans to managerial positions, both in the dugout and front office. Aaron also became a successful businessman following his retirement, opening a series of car dealerships. Aaron has served on several corporate and civil boards, and acted as an advocate on behalf of the NAACP. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility, and was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year.

Aaron and his wife, Billye Suber Aaron, live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hank Aaron was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 1, 2016.

Speaker Bureau Notes: