Hanging Up the Hammer: Remembering the great Hank Aaron

hank aaron 1973

Why couldn’t Friday morning just be a normal morning? Why couldn’t we all just get up, go to work and go about our days like nothing was out of place?

Of all things to wake up to, why did we have to wake up to this?

In a tragic yet powerful turn of events this morning, long-time outfielder and home-run king Hank Aaron walked out of the cornfield and onto the field of dreams. Aaron joins his late colleagues in Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, and a depressingly long number of others on the great field in the skies.

The baseball world feels empty today. There’s the normal hustle and bustle of offseason coverage going on, but there’s a very clear void. Not only did the sport itself lose an icon, but all sports are losing an integral part of civil rights history within its very fabric.

Aaron’s legacy during his playing days will continue to be felt just as strongly as we feel celebrating his life today. We’re all Braves fans today; no matter what region you live in or symbol you have on your hat.

Joining Together

Let’s talk about this for a second.

One of the facets of the game that keeps it exhilarating is the intense rivalries. Whether you find yourselves on the wrong side of the Sox-Yankees or the right side of Braves-Mets, odds are that one of your teams often faces another team that you just can’t stand.

That’s the thing about sports, though. The entire point is to be better, faster, and stronger than your opponent. Athletics are a high-pressure, high-intensity medium that pits the peak of human performance against itself. Deep-rooted rivalries between teams help offer a surge of competitive juices in the game that the national media passively views as dehydrated. Without rivalries and intense battles, there wouldn’t be sports; at least not as we know it.

What Do You Mean?

I’ll tell you.

It’s very polarizing to see unusual groups of people unite over anything. Usually, if you’re stuck to your convictions, you’re not going to budge no matter what. A phenomenon as rare as unified agreement and respect is about as rare as sighting Bigfoot water skiing off the back of the Loch Ness Monster.

It’s only in the most intense of moments that we see everyone come together. Whether it be the highest of achievements or the lowest of lows, extremity often is the driving force for unity among unlikely people.

Today, we’re in the lowest of lows that Braves country has seen in a long time. Today, we are heartbroken.

But, today, we are not alone.

Miami’s tribute from the desk of The Captain is just one example of how teams are showing their love for Hank and his family. The excerpt from the Marlins stands out a bit, seeing how their one of our rivals. From Miami to Cleveland and everywhere in between, the memory of Aaron is being honored in a manner fir for a King.

Seeing entire groups of people, divided by their own convictions, unite for one moment of respect and honor is an outstanding thing to witness. Any moment of unity is an astounding one to witness but seeing everyone pay their tribute to our truest icon is a whole different level.

Hank’s presence off the field made a huge impact on the game of baseball. We’re still feeling it to this day; especially harder today, mind you.

Let us not forget his presence on the field, though.

History that Wrote Itself

Everyone remembers the highlights of Hank’s career; especially his fabled 715th home run.

We could talk all day about that. In fact, we MIGHT talk all day about that soon.

I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t remind you about how he got to 715. There has to be a 1 before there’s a 715, and there’s a lot of work to do before 1.

Especially if you’re Aaron starting your career.

The King was with the Indianapolis Clowns for only three months before making a splash in Major League Baseball. He stood out enough that the big show wanted him almost right away, even in the midst of segregation. It’s important to remember that this is all 4 years after Jackie broke the color barrier. He very well had the ability and proved that. It didn’t mean that he was going to be welcomed, though.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of work, does it? No. It seems pretty smooth, honestly; in pure Hank Aaron style.

The work to be done wasn’t on the field. It was on the streets, anywhere, during the 1950’s.

Aaron recalled an incident at a restaurant, where the staff broke the plates they used, rather than washing them. He still pushed through and centered his focus. He recalled years of threats and racism from fans, and even players, all the way up to his record-breaking home run. He still pushed through and stayed focused.

Aaron’s focus stayed where he wanted it to: on the diamond.

In his 22 years, his focus turned him into the legend that the world knows and loves.

Everyone knows about the home runs, obviously. In his 22 years, though, he never hit more than 50 in a single season. The highest amount he hit was 47 in 1971. He managed to hit so many merely because of his consistency. Aaron went out every single season and basically did the same thing for 20 years: 40+ HR, 100+ RBI’s, .300+ AVG.

His power didn’t turn him into what he became; it was his simple ability to hit the ball. Above all else, he hit the ball better than anyone out there. If you take away every single home run he hit, he would still have over 3,000 hits and 1,500 RBIs. He wasn’t just good at the game; he was great. He could literally do it all.

The King Reigns Supreme

On this day of mourning, let us not be sad; instead, let us remember the impact Aaron has on the game, even to this day.

Let us remember his heroics, both on and off the field. Remember him as one of the greatest to ever pick up a bat, and thank him for the game you love today; it wouldn’t be what it is without him.

It hurts that he is no longer with us…but we can at least be happy knowing how much he loved everyone in Braves Country. We can be joyful in the fact that he helped give us the game we love today, doing it proudly with an A on his hat.

I’m proud to be a Braves fan today. I’m proud that the game I love was shaped by this man and his legacy. I’m thankful that he helped me find my love for the game. I’m glad Aaron was there when we needed him.

As fake Babe Ruth says, heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Rest in power, Hammer. Your name and your impact will live on in baseball forever. Goodbye, and go Braves.

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