Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Braden. Braden Wonders, “who is Hank Aaron” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Braden!
This Wonder of the Day is about an all-star. A hero of baseball. A legendary home run hitter and Medal of Freedom recipient. That’s right, today’s Wonder is about Hank Aaron!
Born on February 5, 1934, Henry “Hank” Louis Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama. As a kid, he enjoyed playing baseball and football. He played both sports at his segregated high school until transferring to a private school for baseball.
At that time, baseball was still largely a segregated sport. Although Jackie Robinson had joined Major League Baseball in 1947, most Black players still played in separate leagues. In 1951, Hank Aaron left school to play for an all-Black team called the Indianapolis Clowns.
Aaron only played three months with the Clowns. While there, he helped the team win their league’s World Series. The next season, he was picked up by the Milwaukee Braves. He started out on a farm team but opened the 1954 season as part of the Major League team.
Soon, everyone who knew anything about baseball was talking about Hank Aaron. He was a strong outfielder, but Aaron earned his real fame in the batter’s box. He quickly gained a reputation as a home run hitter and was given the nickname “Hammerin’ Hank.”
Over the years, Aaron became a well-known figure off the field, as well. He was a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He often told his own life story as an example of the hardships caused by racial inequality. Despite his success on the field and overall popularity, Aaron received constant threats of violence. These came from racist people all over the U.S. They didn’t like seeing a Black man doing well in Major League Baseball (MLB).
These threats grew in the early 1970s as Aaron approached a major milestone. He was on the brink of breaking the home run record set by Babe Ruth in 1935. Many White people were angry about the idea of a Black baseball player passing the Great Bambino’s 714 home run streak. But in 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run. He received a standing ovation.
In all, Hank Aaron would hit 755 home runs during his career—a record that stood until 2007. In 1976, he retired after a 23-year career in baseball. Aaron won three Gold Glove awards and played in 25 MLB all-star games. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. Later, both the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers retired his jersey number (44).
After his retirement from baseball, Aaron became a businessman and philanthropist. He served as a vice president for the Atlanta Braves and also owned a string of restaurants. He also started the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, which funds programs for youths. Aaron also received the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun in 2016.
Hank Aaron died on January 22, 2021, of natural causes. He’s remembered as a great baseball player and as a remarkable person. What other famous athletes would you like to learn more about? Choose one more to be curious about today.
Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2