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On This Day in History, February 5: ‘Hammering Hank’s’ Birthday

Henry Louis (Hank) Aaron was born on Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Ala.

In 1951, when he was 17 years old, he played baseball with the Indianapolis (Indiana) Clowns of the Negro American League professional baseball team. Dewey Griggs was scouting for the Braves (then of Milwaukee, after 1966 of Atlanta), when he took note of the skinny shortstop named Aaron. On June 14, 1952, the Braves signed Aaron up for $10,000.

In 1954, after three seasons in the minor leagues, he began his major-league career. Aaron, a right fielder, became the highest paid player in the history of professional baseball in 1972, when he signed a new three-year contract awarding him a reported total of $600,000.

On April 8, 1974, he hit his 715th home run, topping the 714 of “Babe” Ruth, to become the greatest all-time home-run hitter. His record held until 2007, when Barry Bonds broke it.

In November 1974, Aaron was traded, at his own request, to the Milwaukee Brewers. He retired after the 1976 season with 755 home runs to become a coach and baseball executive. He has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In a recent interview he said that the most intimidating pitchers he probably ever faced were Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. His favorite ballpark to play in was Wrigley Field in Chicago. He advises kids interested in baseball to “practice hard and don’t get discouraged. Keep your eye on the prize and know what you want to accomplish.” Asked if he thinks baseball players of today are too highly paid, he replied: “Let me put it this way: I wish they paid me the same thing. I don’t think they are paying too much at all.”

February 3, 2012 - 3:07pm


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