Hank Aaron ended his Major League career the same place it began, playing baseball in Milwaukee for two final years.
Nine years after the Braves re-located to Atlanta, the 40 year old was traded to the Brewers and back in Milwaukee. He then signed a two-year deal for $240K a year.
Where was Hank when he found out he was going to be wearing powder blue jerseys? In Tokyo, Japan in a home-run hitting contest. Aaron won the contest, despite being jet-lagged and admitting to the media after the contest he hadn’t swung a bat in a month.
Hammerin’ Hank got the call from Bud Selig while still in Toyko. He was basically still asleep when Selig, the Brewers President at the time, told him the news. It was the only time in his 23 year career he was traded. After the trade was announced, he told the New York Times: “I’m going back home”.
Hank Aaron turned 41 years old in January of 1975, just a few months before starting his last two years and seasons in baseball as a player.
Since Aaron was back in the American League, he was able to take full advantage of being the designated hitter. He only played four games in left field the last two years of his career. Hank played in 137 games in ’75, and ended with a .234 batting average. He had 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. His 109 hits for the year included 16 doubles and two triples.
He played in the All-Star Game for the last time that year, which was his 24th career All-Star Game. That game was also played at Milwaukee County Stadium, and Aaron got to pinch-hit in front of a home crowd. Aaron’s first All-Star game in 1955 was also played in Milwaukee. 1975 was the only year he ever represented the American League.
That year included a very important milestone for Aaron. On May 1, he surpassed Babe Ruth and broke MLB’s all-time RBI record of 2,213. He would add another 84.
The Brewers finished 68-94 that year. They took fifth in the AL East, and 28 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox.
1976 was the last year Hank Aaron played professional baseball. He hit several milestones during his final season with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Aaron played 85 games during his final season of play. He would have 10 home runs, 62 hits, 22 runs and 35 RBIs. He had a batting average of .229 and a career-low OPS of .684. You can’t fault him for that, by the time the season ended he would be 43 years old.
The Brewers didn’t have the greatest team those last two years either. Milwaukee ended the season with a record of 66-95. They finished last in the AL East, 32 games behind the New York Yankees.
Hank’s final home run, much like his last All-Star appearance, was at Milwaukee County Stadium. On July 20th, 1976, he hit number 755 off of California Angels pitcher Dick Drago. That home run record would stand for 31 years. It was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007.
Besides the 755 home runs, Aaron finished 3,771 hits, 2,297 RBIs and 6,856 total bases. His RBI and total base records still stand. Over 23 years, he had a career batting average of .305. He averaged 163 hits a season, 32 home runs and 99 RBIs.
Hank Aaron retired after the 1976 season. His number was immediately retired by the Brewers. He would soon join Cooperstown in 1982 and be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He received votes on 97.8 percent of the ballots. That was the second-highest percentage ever at the time, just behind Ty Cobb’s 98.2.
When you think about it, Aaron’s career averages would have been a lot higher if he wouldn’t have played with Milwaukee those last two seasons. But that’s why those types of stats don’t matter sometimes. Brewers fans will never forget that one of the greatest baseball players on-and-off the field ended his career where it began. Milwaukee and Baseball greatness are linked forever.