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If you like Hank Aaron's story, you might also like:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
Yogi Berra,
Julius Erving,
Frank M. Johnson,
B.B. King,
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Peyton Manning,
Willie Mays,
Bill Russell,
Herschel Walker,
Lenny Wilkens
and Andrew Young

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Baseball Hall of Fame
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Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron
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Hank Aaron Interview (page: 3 / 9)

Home Run King

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  Hank Aaron

Your teammate Darrell Evans says he was on deck when you tied the record in Cincinnati, and when you came out of the dugout you said, "I'm going to do it right now." And he says he was on deck before you broke the record in Atlanta, and you said the same thing. You didn't say it the first time you batted that night, when Downing walked you, but you said it before you hit number 715. How did you have the confidence?

Hank Aaron Interview Photo
Hank Aaron: I don't know what I said. I'm glad he said that. Something probably came out of my mouth that didn't sound right! I probably was joking with him. It's kind of hard. They talk about Babe Ruth pointing his finger and hitting that ball in a certain spot. That doesn't happen in baseball. Sometime you can walk up and say, "Oh I feel like I'm going to hit a home run," and you might hit it. Sometimes you might say "I just feel like tonight I'm going to have a great night," and you might have a great night. But it's hard to predict that you're going to hit a home run when you want to!

It sounds like you had a lot of confidence, and maybe that's the secret. You say that when you got home you got down on your knees and prayed. Are you a religious person?

Hank Aaron: Not really. I wished I was, much more than I am. But I do go to church. I believe in God. I'm not as religious as I should be. But I believe that there is somebody that is much greater than I am.

Your achievements have inspired a lot of people. What lesson would you like young people to learn from your career?

Hank Aaron: I would like for young people -- especially African American kids that's growing up -- I want them to understand that there is no shortcut in life. I want them to understand that if you're looking for shortcuts, then life is not going to treat you very well. You got to take one step at a time. You got to do it right. I want them to understand that regardless to how bad things may be one day, that you can wake up tomorrow, and things are going to be a whole lot better tomorrow. I would like for them to understand that. And I would like for them to understand that that's the road that I took. My daddy insisted -- my parents insisted -- upon me doing that, rather than trying to make something quick happen, you're not going to make it.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

How did they feel when you told them you wanted to run off and join a baseball team?

Hank Aaron: I think my mother had some reservations about it, but my father wanted me to go. He said, "Go and give it a try. If you fail, come back. I got a job for you!" But my mother, she didn't want me to go. She wanted me to stay home. I was more of a mother's boy than anybody.

How many kids were there in your family?

Hank Aaron: There were eight of us.

And they didn't want one of you leaving?

Hank Aaron: No, she didn't want any of us leaving. She wanted all of us to be around.

In the 1940s, Mobile, Alabama was not the safest place for a black kid to pursue equality. Tell us about the life of young Hank Aaron. Were you aware of segregation, and if so, how did you feel about it?

Hank Aaron: I don't know that I was aware of it, but I was conscious of who I was. I don't know that I was ever put in a position where I had to go over here to drink water, or go over here to head to the bathroom. Of course, I grew up in the country...

I actually grew up in a little place called Toulminville, Alabama. It's a little country town. There were no roads. I mean just little farm roads. And I can remember many nights, many nights my brother and I would be out playing baseball, just throwing the ball, because we didn't have any lights. But in the dark of the night, she would tell all of us to come in the house. And I would say, "For what?" She said, "Just come in the house and get under the bed." I said, "For what?" She said, "Just get under the bed." And then about ten minutes later we'd have the Ku Klux Klan coming through, intimidating, throwing firebombs and things like that. And that's what really kind of set you all apart, and said, just because your skin is a little different, then they were going to treat you a little different.

Horrible. Is it true that you used to make your own baseballs?

Hank Aaron: Believe it or not, I used to make them out of rag dolls.

My parents couldn't afford to buy a bat, they couldn't afford to buy a ball, and so actually we did everything we could in order to pretend like we was playing baseball. We would take rags and wrap them up tight and throw to each other. Or we would take pop tops, like soda tops, and throw, and try to hit balls with a broomstick.

We did anything that we could in order to pretend like we were playing baseball in a big league camp.

Had you seen baseball? How did you know about it?

Hank Aaron: Actually I heard about it, sleeping in bed at night.

The Mobile Bears, which were the farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers, were in Mobile, and I would hear this friend of mine -- when I say a friend, it was someone I knew next door -- would have his radio on, and he would have the radio on to the Mobile Bears, and I could listen to them. That's how I knew about baseball. That's how I kept up with it. I didn't have enough money to go to the game, so I had to listen to it.

You could hear the crack of the bat, and the crowd cheering?

Hank Aaron: I could hear that. I remember a player by the name of George "Shotgun" Shuba who played a few years with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I remember all of those players. That was the Brooklyn Dodgers' Double A team, and they used to take a lot of the players off of that team and bring them to the big leagues.

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This page last revised on Oct 02, 2015 17:14 EDT
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