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Hank Aaron

Baseball player Hank Aaron was born on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama to Estella Aaron and Herbert Aaron. He attended Central High School in Mobile, Alabama and transferred to the private Josephine Allen Institute, where he graduated in 1951. While finishing high school, Aaron played for the Mobile Black Bears, a semi-professional Negro league baseball team.

In 1951, Aaron signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, where he played for three months before his contract was purchased by the Boston Braves. Aaron was assigned to the Eau Claire Braves, the Class-C minor league affiliate for the Boston Braves and was named Rookie of the Year in 1952. The next season, Aaron was promoted to the Jacksonville Braves, the Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. The following year, Aaron was invited to spring training for the newly relocated Milwaukee Braves and was offered a major league contract. In 1954, he made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Braves. By 1955, Aaron was named to the National League All-Star roster and captured his first National League batting title in 1956. The following season, Aaron won the National League MVP Award and led the Braves to win the 1957 World Series. Aaron went on to lead the Braves to another pennant championship in 1958, and received his first Golden Glove Award. In 1965, the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, where he became the first franchise player to hit his 500th career home run; and in 1970, he was the first Brave to reach 3,000 career hits. On April 8, 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time homerun record with 715. Aaron was then traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1975-1976 season, when he broke the all-time RBI record. After the 1976 season, Aaron retired from professional baseball and returned to the Atlanta Braves organization as an executive. In 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and was then named the Braves’ vice president and director of player development. Aaron continued to serve as vice president of the Braves. He also owned several car dealerships in Georgia and owned over thirty restaurant chains throughout the country. In 1990, he published his memoir I Had a Hammer.

Aaron was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1976, from the NAACP. In 1999, Major League Baseball announced the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award to honor the best overall offensive performer in the American and National League. Later that year, Aaron was ranked fifth on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2001, Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush in June 2002.

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

Accession Number

A2016.064

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/1/2016

Last Name

Aaron

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Louis

Occupation
Schools

Central High School

Josephine Allen Institute

First Name

Henry

Birth City, State, Country

Mobile

HM ID

AAR01

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Laura and George Bilicic

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

2/5/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lamb Chops

Short Description

Baseball player Hank Aaron (1934 - ) began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns. He led the Milwaukee Braves to a 1957 World Series title, and broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974.

Employment

Indianapolis Clowns

Eau Claire Bears (Boston Braves)

Jacksonville Braves (Boston Braves)

Milwaukee Braves

Atlanta Braves

Milwaukee Brewers

Turner Broadcasting, Inc.

Hank Aaron BMW

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Gray And Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Hank Aaron's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron talks about his parents' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron describes the Toulminville neighborhood of Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron describes his early personality

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Hank Aaron recalls his early interest in baseball

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Hank Aaron remembers Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Hank Aaron talks about the limited resources for sports in his community

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Hank Aaron describes his experiences as a Boy Scout

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Haqnk Aaron recalls his early experiences of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Hank Aaron talks about the lack of African American athletes in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Hank Aaron recalls enrolling at the Josephine Allen Institute in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron remembers joining the Indianapolis Clowns

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron talks about the prominent baseball players of his time

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron remembers the conditions on the Indianapolis Clowns team

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron describes his batting technique

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron talks about the limited opportunities for African American athletes

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron recalls the prejudice he experienced while playing for the Jacksonville Braves, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Hank Aaron recalls the prejudice he experienced while playing for the Jacksonville Braves, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Hank Aaron remembers the manager of the Jacksonville Braves

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Hank Aaron remembers joining the Milwaukee Braves

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron talks about his positions with the Milwaukee Braves

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron describes the different styles of pitching

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron remembers the pitchers in the National League

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron talks about the lack of diversity in the American League

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron remembers his teammates on the Milwaukee Braves

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron talks about white baseball players from the South

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Hank Aaron remembers winning the 1957 World Series

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Hank Aaron talks about his approach to playing baseball

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Hank Aaron recalls appearing on 'Home Run Derby'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron remembers his experiences with segregation while traveling with the Milwaukee Braves

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron recalls the Braves' move to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron talks about living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron recalls the 1967 season with the Atlanta Braves

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron remembers his three thousandth career hit

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron talks about the camaraderie between baseball players

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Hank Aaron reflects upon his career

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Hank Aaron talks about approaching Babe Ruth's home run record

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Hank Aaron talks about the public response to his home run record

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron describes the home run that broke Babe Ruth's record

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron talks about the popular batters of his time

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron talks about Barry Bonds' baseball career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron reflects upon the current gameplay in Major League Baseball

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron shares his views on Little League coaching

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron talks about baseball in the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Hank Aaron talks about the need for outreach to black youth in Major League Baseball

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Hank Aaron recalls working as a farm director for the Atlanta Braves

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Hank Aaron remembers being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Hank Aaron talks about his businesses and autobiography

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Hank Aaron shares his advice to aspiring baseball players

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Hank Aaron describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Hank Aaron talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Hank Aaron describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Hank Aaron remembers the conditions on the Indianapolis Clowns team
Hank Aaron describes the home run that broke Babe Ruth's record
Transcript
So, now tell us about James Jenkins. I hear, I hear that he played a pivotal role in your life with the Clowns?$$That was my seatmate, well you know we only got two dollars a day, meal money and I made two hundred dollars a month. That was my salary. Well, most of the money that I made, the little money that I made, I sent, I sent it home to my mother [Estella Pritchett Aaron] and Jenkins was a seatmate of mine and back then we would travel, Indianapolis Clowns. We would play in Atlanta [Georgia] today, and play in a city that was a hundred miles away at night, and we never did stop at a restaurant. We slept on the bus and it just so happened that I was young enough and I say this with no pun intended, but I was playing with older guys and I felt--really felt sorry for 'em because me being young, I could go through a lot more than--my body would take a lot more than they--their body could take and we got two dollars a day meal money and he and I use to take his two dollars and my two dollars and we would buy a big jar of peanut butter, about that (demonstrates) so size, and we'd buy a loaf of bread. Now, we didn't care about whether the bread was--we'd eat half of it today and then half of it tomorrow you know, but that's what we would eat off of, peanut butter and jelly, not jelly but just peanut butter, and this is real and I tell a lot of people, this is real peanut butter. This is not peanut butter with oil on top where you can mix it up. This stuff is, it gets in your throat right and if you don't have the right thing to digest it, it would choke you. So, he would--he and I, he and I were seatmates and he would ta- he would help me understand that life is gonna get better, you know. Things gonna get better you know, just hang in there a long time you know, and he was much older than I was and he was my seatmate. Seatmate, and that's what we called, we didn't call 'em roommates, we called 'em seatmates because (simultaneous)--.$$(Simultaneous) Y'all didn't have a room (laughter)?$$No, we never stayed in a hotel, we never stayed in a hotel so, I just, I would say that the little I learned from him, I mean I learned an awful lot from him, that he helped me in so many ways that he probably don't even remember.$$Now, did he help you with your grip on the--?$$No, he never helped me with anything at the bat or baseball, but he helped me with just trying to live life, trying to be understanding that things going to get better with life, you know but he never did--he never bothered me with, with telling me how to grip (gestures) the bat or run the bases or anything like that.$Okay, now tell us about--if you can put us in the moment. You hit the home run against who?$$Al Downing.$$Al Downing, okay, so this is the day--it was a day game, right?$$It was an evening game, yes, yes.$$Right, evening game, all right, so you're at the plate and what did he pitch you?$$Al had, you know I never had good luck against him really to be honest with you, although I hit the home run to, to beat the Babe's [Babe Ruth] record off him, but I never really had good luck with him. He was--I remember when he was with the Yankees [New York Yankees], for a little fellow his size, he threw very good, had very good control and was a very good pitcher. He hurt his arm and of course they traded him to the Dodgers [Los Angeles Dodgers], and what he threw me that night, he had a very good screwball, you know and he couldn't--at the beginning I could understand it. He couldn't get his screwball over you know and he tried to throw me a fast ball and that was not his pitch, that was his second pitch. Well, I say second pitch, that's the second pitch that he usually gets you out on, and I hit the ball out of the ballpark [Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia], but in all fairness to him, it was a, it was a--as I mentioned before, the second pitch, but he was a very, a very good pitcher. He was not one of these yo-yos that come along, he could pitch and he knew how to pitch. I think right now I think he's teaching school in, in New York somewhere.$$Okay, so were there charges that he just lobbed you one up there or something?$$No, I never heard that part, never heard somebody say that, but I think I've heard people say well you know he was a secondary pitcher, and that was not true.$$Yeah, you're right.$$He, he wasn't, he was a starter for the Dodgers and the Dodgers thought a lot of him and I thought a lot of him 'cause I had faced him once before or maybe two or three times before with the Yankees and he was not easy pickings, you know he was somebody to be reckoned with, but he just happened to have an off day like anybody could you know.$$Right, Al Downing was a respected pitcher in the Minor League [Minor League Baseball], right (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, right.$$So, how did you feel when the ball was going out of the park, did you feel relieved it finally (unclear) (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I felt good and I felt I had hit enough home runs to realize when I hit it that it was gonna go out the ballpark because I had hit enough of 'em, you know really, and I felt, I felt very good. I felt like it was over with, done with and that was it.