RIP Hank Aaron, 1934-2021

24 03 2021

As an irregular and irrational baseball fan my whole life, I can’t describe the sadness I felt when I learned Hank Aaron died.  In the world of twitter today, it was reported outlets early the morning of January 22nd.  I remember hoping it wasn’t true – ESPN, CNN/SI and other major outlets were silent for over an hour that morning.  I thought maybe it was a mistake –  that Atlanta paper/website surely will go out of business.  In all the sadness brought by COVID-19, I knew that his last tweets from his account was about 10 days or two weeks earlier of him getting the COVID-19 vaccine.  I thought about the misinformation that would spread about COVID vaccines.

But mostly I thought about a hero who I’d never seen play but meant so much to my baseball fandom.

Alas, the first reporters were correct and at some level were just doing their job.  To report the passing of a legend, and more importantly, an American hero.

Hank Aaron is the first name in the baseball encyclopedia.  Just before his brother, Tommy Aaron.  It’s fitting, for so long he was the record holder of the most important record in the game.  Once that record was broken, it seemed to lose much of its luster.  In a way it was the baseball’s Berlin wall, the last abdication of the throne of America’s game to the NFL.

I’m still at a loss for words about Aaron’s death.  I met him for about 20 seconds getting an autograph.  I’ve pulled an autograph of his from a Topps pack.  Both were when he was older and clearly couldn’t pen a gem like he could in his youth or middle age.  In a way, that was all the more special.  Aaron’s beauty was always that he was human in a way that Babe Ruth (or comic book Bonds) never seemed.  When he died, he was not the greatest living player – that would belong to Mays or Bonds depending on how you want to consider PEDs.  But he was the game’s biggest icon, and a month later I still don’t feel like going through his biography on SABR like some of the other players who’ve passed away.  Pointing out that he won the 1957 MVP feels fairly insignificant.

I’d say this – Tom Stanton has a great book about the build up to Aaron’s record breaking homer to pass Ruth.  I plan on reading that again this year (and I never read a book twice!).

Rest in Peace Hank, you had a hammer and you used it to shape our country for the best.


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