In Memoriam: Hank Aaron

January 27, 2021
Hank Aaron, one of the greatest legends that baseball has ever had, died today at age 86. But what a legacy he leaves behind.

 

Aaron’s baseball career is defined by length and excellence. He played 23 seasons from 1954 to 1976 (21 with the Braves) and was selected to an All-Star team in 21 of them. He ranks second in both home runs and at-bats and third in games played. He’s the all-time leader in RBI, extra-base hits, and Total Bases and ranked in the top 10 in those stats a combined 47 times.

Aaron ranks fourth all-time in Bill James’ Runs Created stat behind Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Stan Musial. We should also not forget that he was a well-regarded defensive player who won three Gold Glove Awards. He ranks fifth all-time in James' player value stat, Win Shares, behind Ruth, Ty Cobb, Bonds, and Honus Wagner.

Though Aaron won only one MVP award, he received at least one MVP vote in every season from 1955 to 1973 and ranked in the top 10 in voting 13 times. Aaron’s MVP came in 1957, a year in which his then-Milwaukee Braves won the World Series, the only such triumph in Aaron's career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

When Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974, he did so in the face of immense pressure and racism. He regularly received letters with death threats but remained poised and composed whenever he took the field. The record was later broken by Bonds.

Though Aaron was critical of PED usage in baseball, at the time of Bonds’ record-breaking moment, he said that he hoped the achievement would "inspire others to chase their own dreams." Many today still regard Aaron as the true home run king.

Aaron carried himself in the best way both during and after his baseball career and his value as an ambassador for the sport is immeasurable. He was not one to promote himself, but rather to let his actions do the talking. His legacy will be that of humble greatness in every aspect of his life.

Hank Aaron – Career Ranks

  Totals Rank
Games 3,298 3rd
Hits 3,771 3rd
Runs 2,174 4th
HR 755 2nd
RBI 2,297 1st
Total Bases 6,856 1st
Extra-Base Hits 1,477 1st
 
 

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

Robinsong
Manushfan asks why Aaron is not considered the best ever. Bonds and Ruth and Mays had higher WAR and WinShares despite slightly shorter career. More important, they had higher peaks than Aaron. But I think the biggest reason was that his exact contemporary - Mays -was a significantly better player for the primes of their career. For the first 13(!) years of Aaron’s career - great as he was, he was outplayed by Mays by 2 wins per year. The impression that Aaron was great but not GOAT was firmly established,
11:06 PM Jan 29th
 
Manushfan
I have always wondered where the Hank as all time Best books or articles are. It's never him-always Ruth or Mays or Bonds etc. Why is that?
10:23 AM Jan 28th
 
bhalbleib
I would also point out that of the top 11 outfielders by career WAR (Ruth, Bonds, Mays, Cobb, Aaron, Speaker, Musial, T. Williams, Henderson, Mantle, and F. Robinson), Aaron ranks only below Ruth in postseason OPS. Given the unevenness in opportunity of postseason play, it isn't fair to just judge them on that standard, but if you are looking at something to differentiate players who are all great, it is something to consider.
3:21 PM Jan 27th
 
 
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