Aaron: Icon of Perseverance

Baseball Legend Will Address Seniors Today, Offering Lessons on the Value of Hard Work

Robinson later broke the major league color barrier on April 10, 1947, when he signed a contract to play for the Dodgers.

As a 13-year-old, Aaron was very excited when Robinson entered the major leagues.

"I was quite happy," he says. "I realized that by his making the initial step it would give minority kids a chance to play professional ball."

Aaron knew Robinson quite well, describing him as an "athlete and gentleman."

"Besides being a great ballplayer, he was great to the human race," Aaron says.


The Negro leagues continued to operate even after Robinson broke the color barrier, and Aaron began his baseball career playing for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro American Leagues, the only Black team for whom he played.

Aaron's contract was purchased by the Boston Braves in June 1952, and he played in the minor leagues for two years before being called up to the majors by the Braves, then based in Milwaukee.

When Aaron first began playing major league baseball, there were not more than 10 Black players in the league, he says.

Aaron debuted with the Braves on April 13, 1954 as a right fielder even though he had played infield in the minors.

The 20-year-old rookie batted .280 with 13 home runs. And he just got better with age.

He won the National League batting championship in 1956 with a .328 average and had perhaps his finest season the following year, hitting .322 with 44 homers, 132 runs batted in and 118 runs scored. That year, he led the Braves to a world championship and took home the most valuable player award.

Aaron led the league four times in home runs and runs batted in and twice in batting average. A wellrounded player, he also won three Golden Glove awards for fielding.

Aaron, nicknamed `Hammering Hank,' is perhaps known more for his prowess at hitting home runs than for his all-around skills.

On April 8, 1974, he hit his 715th home run in Atlanta, breaking the career record set by Babe Ruth. Aaron went on to finish his career with 755 lifetimehome runs.

Aaron calls breaking the home run record "anhonor and privilege."

"Records are made to be broken, and someonewill come along and break mine," he says. "Theonly reason I was able to accomplish that wasbecause I was able to play for so long and had somany great years."