Its only been a few days since we lost the legendary Hank Aaron. The Hall of Famer was 86 and outpouring of love and personal stories has filled the air with appreciation for a great player and a great person.
When I first heard about the passing of Hank Aaron I was saddened, having passed only a day after former Packers GM Ted Thompson. I read everything I saw shared on social media of players, coaches and media workers sharing the stories they had about meeting and talking to Hank Aaron.
Aaron was an All-Star every season from 1955-1973 and earned MVP votes in every one of those 19 seasons! I learned something that truly impressed me and that was the fact that Hank Aaron played in Major League Baseball for 23 years! It inspired me to write an article about Aaron’s first and last home run.
Hank Aaron’s First Home Run
Hank Aaron played his first major league baseball game in 1954 at 20 years old. Aaron collected his first hit on April 15, 1954, then just eight days later, in his seventh career game, Aaron hit his first of many home runs.
Aaron came up to bat in the top of the sixth inning with one out, facing Vic Raschi, born in 1919. Aaron hit a solo home run and set off on the beginning of a 23 year journey that would become one of the most legendary baseball careers ever.
The solo homer Aaron hit cut the St. Louis Cardinals lead to 4-2 in a game that the Milwaukee Braves would eventually emerge victorious 7-5 in 14 innings. Aaron went 3-7 and drove in two runs and scored two himself.
Hank Aaron went on to hit 13 home runs in 122 games in his rookie campaign and finished fourth in rookie of the year voting.
Over 22 years later in 1976, after having passed Babe Ruth‘s record 714 home runs two years prior, Hank Aaron had spent the past two years widening the gap on his home run record with the Milwaukee Brewers
Aaron’s final home run ball was caught by stadium worker Richard Arndt who according to the LA Times, sold the baseball in 1999 for an astounding $650,000.
In a game at County Stadium on July 20, 1976, Hank Aaron stepped into the batters box for his fourth at bat of a 4-1 game looking for his first hit after starting the game against the California Angels 0-3.
Batting in the seventh inning against Dick Drago, born in 1945 (a 26 year difference from the birth year of the pitcher Aaron hit his first home run off) Hank Aaron hit career home run number 755, an all time record that would stand for 41 years.
While coated in controversy, Hank Aaron’s home run record was broken in 2007 by Barry Bonds. There are however three records that Aaron does hold that I believe will never be broken.
First, Hank Aaron is number one all time in RBI (runs batted in) with 2,297, the closest active players are Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Pujols is third all time with 2,100 and at 40 years old still trails by 197. Cabrera is 24th all time with 1,729 RBI and is 37 years old and unlikely to reach Aaron’s record.
Second, Hank Aaron is first all time in All-Star seasons with 21. Miguel Cabrera is the nearest active player with 11 All-Star appearances. Perennial all-star Mike Trout only has 8 and at 29 would have to play 13 consecutive all-star caliber seasons to break Aaron’s record.
Finally, Hank Aaron leads Major League baseball in total bases. This really blows my mind how far ahead Aaron is in this statistic. Hank Aaron is 722 total bases ahead of second place Stan Musial, an absolutely bonkers 12.3 miles worth of total bases! To add even more perspective, Barry Bonds could hit 200 more home runs and still have fewer total bases than Aaron.
Hank Aaron’s legacy will live on forever, in his playing career and the top hitters from the NL and AL every season receive the Hank Aaron award. While remembered, Aaron will forever be missed.
Aaron leaves behind a legacy of greatness not just on the baseball field, but off it as well.