THE BEST TO EVER PLAY THE GAME
April 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Baseball has a special place in my life. I grew up looking for a place to watch the “NBC Game of the Week” every Saturday afternoon since it wasn’t always available on our black and white TV at home. So my brother and I would go to the local hotel/restaurant, sit in the lobby very early and make sure no one else would be able to interrupt our chance to watch the game by getting to the TV first. It was a great strategy since we rarely missed a game.
The bonus was a chance to watch the Reds, our favorite team by far! The Big Red Machine was on a lot since they were one of the best teams in baseball. We also saw some of the best including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey and Billy Williams. After all these years it got me to thinking about the best players that have played the game. Some I have had the pleasure of seeing and others I only know from what I have read. I am going to look at some of the best and give all baseball fans a chance to read about the “BEST TO EVER PLAY THE GAME.”
The first player on our profile is Hank Aaron, a player I consider to be one of the best five of all time. Aaron’s 755 homeruns would surely be enough to earn him a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but his accomplishments aside from his home runs would add up to Hall of Fame credentials.
Born Henry Louis Aaron on February 5, 1934, in a poor black section of Mobile, Alabama, called "Down The Bay," Hank Aaron was the third of eight children born to Estella and Herbert Aaron, who made a living as a tavern owner and a dry dock boilermaker's assistant.
Aaron and his family moved to the middle-class Toulminville neighborhood when he was 8 years old. Aaron developed a strong affinity for baseball and football at a young age, and tended to focus more heavily on sports than his studies. During his freshman and sophomore years, he attended Central High School, a segregated high school in Mobile, where he excelled at both football and baseball. On the baseball diamond, he played shortstop and third base.
In his junior year, Aaron transferred to the Josephine Allen Institute, a neighboring private school that had an organized baseball program. Before the end of his first year at Allen, he had more than proved his abilities on the baseball field. Then, perhaps sensing that he had a bigger future ahead of him, in 1951, the 18-year-old Aaron quit school to play for the Negro Baseball League's Indianopolis Clowns.
Aaron played 23 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. He twice led the league in runs scored and tied for the lead once. He also led the league in hits twice, RBI four times, and won two batting crowns. Aaron finished with an incredible 3,771 career hits and had a lifetime batting average of .305. He played in two World Series (1957 and 1958) where he hit .364 in 14 games.
In the homerun department, Aaron led the league three times and tied for the lead once. He hit 40 or more homeruns eight times and in four of those seasons, he hit 44 dingers. To put Aaron’s homerun total in perspective: A player would have to hit 35 homeruns every year for 20 consecutive years and would still fall 55 short of 755.
Aaron finished with 2,174 runs scored, the same number as Babe Ruth. He also finished his career with the all-time record for number of games played, at-bats, total bases, homeruns, RBI and All-Star games (24). Aaron hit his 715th career homerun off Dodgers starter Al Downing on April 8, 1974. When Aaron picked up his 3,000 hit, it marked the first time in baseball history, that anyone produced 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns.