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Home Run King Hank Aaron dies at 86

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One of baseball’s true gentlemen is gone

Topps

This is how I first came to know Hank Aaron, on a 1976 Topps baseball card.

Topps

I was too young to have seen him play, or to have followed his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1973-74. But I was astute enough to understand how important he was to baseball.

And in case I wasn’t so “astute,” all I had to do was flip the card over:

How could this baseball card (from a 10-cent pack) be anything but a holy grail, and this player be anything but holy?

Even among the endless parade of deaths that have occurred in the past year, coronavirus-fueled or not, Hank Aaron’s loss stands out.

Universally loved — and perhaps as courageous as any Black player aside from Jackie Robinson given the hate, threat and vitriol he faced in toppling Ruth — the baseball world is a lot less full today.

Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement:

and it’s certain that tributes will be pouring in all day and weekend.

Having played all but two of his seasons in the National League, there isn’t a lot of White Sox-relevant information to pass on about Aaron. But I just learned one interesting fact: The White Sox were the only team Hank Aaron faced in his career but never homered against. In 19 games and 67 plate appearances, no homers, six RBIs and a .648 OPS. (But he did, in his 40s, leg out a triple!)

Obviously, I don’t have personal memories of Hank Aaron, but still I hold him in an esteem that I’m sure most of you do. Please feel free to share your thoughts on him in the comments below.