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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,
Coretta Scott King,
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: 8 / 9)

Home Run King

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  Hank Aaron

By the end of the 1973 season, when you ended the season with 713 home runs, the biggest crowd Atlanta had seen up to that time -- 40,000 people -- gave you a five-minute standing ovation. Tell us about that moment, and what it meant to you. Did you think racial attitudes were starting to change? Here you are in Atlanta, you weren't too sure when you first came that they were going to even accept you and now you've got the whole stadium standing up?

Hank Aaron: Isn't that something? That's what it is. It just gradually turned out that way.

I came here for one reason: I came here to play baseball. I came here to entertain people. That's what baseball players are about. You know what I mean? They're entertainers. When you go to a stage to watch someone perform on stage, to sing a song, that's what baseball players are for. I had given everything that I had. So they felt like, "This man has given us all, and we need to get up and clap for him." So I felt wonderful. I felt like, "You finally arrived. You finally got what you wanted to get." And it's been wonderful ever since.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

What do you know about your achievement now that you didn't know or understand when you first started your career? What does achievement mean to you?

Hank Aaron: It means that you have fulfilled your obligation. When I say obligation, you fulfill whatever thing that you wanted to do. I look at my career...

I was fortunate enough to play 23 years in the big leagues. I was fortunate enough to play 23 All-Star games. I was fortunate enough to have played in 14, 15 World Series games. Games -- not series -- games. I played in all these, and I won one home run title, batting titles, slugging percentages, and I've done a lot of things that I think that I wanted to do in baseball. What it is that some people might have said that you think that you should accomplish that you didn't? Would you be disappointed? Yes, I am disappointed that I should have done one thing that I should have done in baseball that I didn't do, and that's to win the Triple Crown. I came very close twice, and I didn't do it. One year I think I was off to the greatest start of my career, I don't know what year it was, and I sprung my ankle in Philadelphia, and I was out for a long time, and I got off to a good start. But I thought that I should have won the Triple Crown at least two years.

You're one of the greatest stars in the history of the sport. How does that make you feel?

Hank Aaron: I feel great!

I gave baseball everything that I had. That's the way that I did every single night that I played, or every day that I played. When I walked off that field, no matter where it was or when, I could walk in my hotel room and look myself in the mirror and say, "Hey, I gave it everything this afternoon that I had." Sometimes I would go 0 for 4, sometimes I would go 4 for 4. Sometimes I would have two home runs, sometimes I wouldn't have any. But I felt like, it just makes me feel great because of the fact that I didn't abuse what I had, what God gave me. A lot of players, a lot of players I've seen, and I played with a lot of players that abused their ability to play the game. They took for granted that, "Oh, I got this ability to play and I can play it, no matter what." I can almost tell you, if I hit -- I never hit no more than 44 home runs -- but I could tell you, the day after the season is over with, if we sat down in a corner and you said, "Who did you hit these 44 home runs off of?" I could almost tell verbatim who I hit those home runs off of. Yes.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

That's how much it meant to you.

Hank Aaron: Yes. It meant that much to me.

I studied the game. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was very proud of my career. I was very proud of the fact that I was able to play baseball. I took advantage of all the ability that I had. I could run the bases. Fortunately for me, I played in a small town, which was good for me. A lot of people say, "What if you had played in New York?" Everybody can't play in New York. "What if you played in Chicago?" Everybody can't play in Chicago. Somebody's got to play in small towns. I happened to play in Milwaukee.

You've named your education foundation the Chasing the Dream Foundation, to provide opportunities for disadvantaged kids. Why is this so important to you? I presume the dream you're talking about is the American Dream?

Hank Aaron: That's true, but I think it goes a little bit deeper than that.

As a little boy, growing up in Mobile, Alabama, I dreamed of playing baseball. I wanted to play baseball so bad, and had nobody to help me, so I just thought that if I ever get in a position to help other children, regardless of whatever color they may be, and chase their dream, I was going to try to do everything that I possibly could. Of course, when I retired, the Commissioner -- who is now the Commissioner, Bud Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Braves at the time -- was my boss. And the year that I retired, he said, "What would you like to have? Would you like to have a trip around the world, or would you like to have a trip?" Would you like to have a lot of things, I said, "Commissioner..." it wasn't the Commissioner -- I said, "Bud..." -- he and I were very good friends -- I said, "Bud, what I'd like to have is some kind of foundation, that when I retire from baseball that it would last, and go on and on and on." And that's why we call it Chasing the Dream Foundation.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

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