• April 16, 2024

Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86

After starting the 1952 season with the Clowns, Aaron was signed in June by the Braves, who were in Boston for their final season. They hired him to play for their farm team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and he was named Northern League Rookie of the Year that season.

He was promoted to second base for the Jacksonville, Florida, South Atlantic League or Sally League team in 1953, and became one of the first five black players on the circuit.

Now he was back in the old south.

“The whites yelled from the stands and called us alligator baits.” Felix MantillaHoward Bryant, a Puerto Rican infielder who lived with Aaron in Jacksonville and later joined him in Milwaukee, said “The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron” (2010). “Jacksonville wasn’t that bad. But places like Columbus and Macon were evil. “

Aaron led the Sally League in batting and was voted Most Valuable Player. But he was a poor infielder, so he learned the outfield at the Puerto Rican winter ball and earned a spring training trip with the Braves, who were in their sophomore season in Milwaukee, in 1954.

When the New York Giants’ newly acquired outfielder Bobby Thomson (less than three years after his celebrated homer at the Polo Grounds) broke an ankle during the show season, Aaron took his place.

On April 23, he celebrated his first major league home run at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis in front of the Cardinals Vic Rashi, the former Yankee standout. Thomson returned in July, but Aaron remained a regular until he too broke an ankle in early September. He finished with 13 home runs and an average of 0.280.

Aaron starred in 1955 and met .314. The following season he won his first punch title with .328. When he was voted Most Valuable Player of the National League in 1957, he nearly took the triple crown, led the league in home runs (44) and runs (132), and finished third with a tie an average of 0.322.

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