I flipped many baseball cards in the school yard back in the day, and probably affixed just as many to my bicycle spokes with a clothes pin. However, I never treated The Hammer’s card with such disregard. I was schooled in Hank Aaron etiquette early in life by my uncles, who spoke so glowingly of him.
By the school year of ’74 however, my mom was packing my pocket with four quarters a day. My older sister and I walked to and from school together, and on the way home, a stop at the corner store was customary. That’s when I would plunk down my quarters for two wax packs of baseball cards, and an RC Cola.
My 1974 Topps baseball card of Hank Aaron is still one of my most prized possessions. My uncle told me, “…better keep that one special. That’s the King.” The card came to me in one of the first two packs of baseball cards I ever purchased on my own. Before then, I needed to be more of an opportunist, and hit my parents up for cards whenever we were together in stores.
I still have that card, and it’s high time I remind my uncle about it, and thank him.
My memory of Hank Aaron in his last season with the Braves is a little spotty, but I do remember watching him play versus the Mets on TV. I myself, do not necessarily remember him breaking the home run record, but I did learn he was indeed was the new home run king through (once again, my uncles, and..) listening to Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy.
I have much more vivid memories of Hank Aaron during his last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. I’d watch him when the Brewers played the Yankees, or during the rare Saturday Game of the Week appearance. And yes, I was actually able to see him hit a few of his 755 career home runs, on TV at least. I saw him play in person once, in 1975 at Shea Stadium.
For those who aren’t aware, the Yankees played in Shea Stadium during the 1974-1975 seasons, while Yankee Stadium was under major renovation. My pop was a Yankees fan, so it worked well for both of us. Therefore, the Yankees, and watching Hank Aaron play are just some of the extra added memories I have of Shea Stadium.
Days like today make me feel happy that I was born when I was. Like the generations that came before me, I know I similarly have baseball memories that newer generations will never enjoy.
On the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth‘s career home run record, I’d just like to share the fact that Aaron (along with Roberto Clemente) were revered by at least two of my uncles. I learned from them, and today, I respect very few people, in or out of baseball, more.
I’m more familiar with his post-playing days, and the ambassador of baseball he became. But, he was more than just that. He became a moral compass of the game, admonishing baseball when called for. Off the field, I consider him one of America’s greatest living men.
Long live the King.