Tonight’s all about Bad Henry. Not much left to say, but here are some essential facts about Number 44, excerpted from a terrific 2007 SI profile by Tom Verducci.
While he was born in a section of town referred to as “Down the Bay,” he spent most of his youth in Toulminville. Aaron grew up poor and his family couldn’t afford baseball equipment so he had to hit bottle caps with sticks.
Hank made do.
In 1953, at age 19, only one year removed from hitting cross-handed for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro leagues, he was one of five players thrust into the integration of the Class A South Atlantic League, in the heart of Dixie. Aaron could not eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels or drink from the same fountains as his white teammates. Fans heaped racially charged insults at the teenager. A white teammate, Joe Andrews, bat in hand, would escort him out of the ballpark after games. And lo, Aaron hit .362 and was named the league’s MVP.
Those kind of seasons would become routine.
Aaron was such a masterly hitter that he would have passed 3,000 hits even if he had never hit a home run. Pick any star who ever played the game and give him 180 additional homers, and Aaron still would have more total bases
So get there early tonight and show the great man the respect he deserves.