By Scoop Malinowski
Status: Baseball Hall of Famer. All-time home run king with 755. Currently, Hank is a Senior Vice President with the Atlanta Braves. In addition, he owns several Church’s, Popeyes and Krispy Kreme franchises in the Atlanta area. He also operates his foundation (The Henry L. Aaron Chasing The Dream Foundation).
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190
DOB: February 5, 1934 In: Mobile, Alabama
Childhood Heroes: I don’t know if I had that many. Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, you have to realize that there were very few heroes. Black people didn’t have heroes back then…only your mother, father and school teacher.
Nickname: ‘Hammerin’ Hank Aaron.
Hobbies/Interests: Operating my Foundation. I like to fish and play tennis. Tennis is my sport now. After I retired (in 1976), I tried to play on a softball team, but I couldn’t hit that big, slow thing. Tennis is a game that makes you feel like you’re really playing something. I love every minute of it. (How’s your tennis game these days?) Sometimes my forehand is too strong. I have a tendency to hit it out of the ballpark [smiles].
First Job(s): I mowed some yards, picked some potatoes. The best job I ever had was delivering ice. It would come in 25-pound blocks and we had tongs to carry them into the houses.
Childhood Dream: Before Jackie Robinson and blacks started getting into the big leagues, I would have liked to work as a carpenter. I was always good with my hands. I could have made anything I wanted.
Funny Baseball Memory: I remember Satchel Paige sending his infielders to the bench and telling his outfielders to sit down…while he struck out the side with the bases loaded [smiles].
Pre-Game Feeling: Just trying to concentrate and figure out how I was gonna hit the pitcher. I had a unique hitting style. I believe that my style was developed by batting against bottle caps as a kid. I never swung the bat like other power hitters. Most of the great home run hitters – like Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds – hit with their weight on their back foot. But I was the opposite. I had my weight on my front foot. I got my power from lashing out at the last instant with my hands. If you’ve ever tried to hit a bottle cap, you know that you can’t sit back. The way those things dip and float, you’ve got to jump out and get it. That’s the way I’ve always hit.
Greatest Sports Moment: Well, of course, I had several. Playing baseball for 22 years, I hit a lot of home runs. I did a lot of great things. Naturally, hitting the home run (No. 715) was one of the greatest moments I had. Hitting the home run to break Babe Ruth’s record (April 8, 1974 off Al Downing in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium).
Most Painful Moment: I didn’t have any.
Favorite Athletes To Watch: I like to watch them all really, because they all have different meanings. Vince Carter. Kobe Bryant. Shaq. (How about in tennis?) Monica Seles. Venus and Serena Williams. Martina Hingis. Pete Sampras. And I guess my all-time favorite would have to be John McEnroe. I respect pro tennis players as much as any athletes for their conditioning and mental toughness. Also, the Cleveland Browns. I live and die with the Browns. Before I got my satellite dish, I’d hop on a plane from Atlanta to Cleveland. I would dress up in ratty old clothes and a stocking cap and sit in the ‘Dawg Pound’ with all the crazies [smiles].
Family: Wife, Billye; sons, Hankie, Lary, daughters, Gaile, Dorinda, Barbara, Ceci.
Career Accomplishments: Hall of Fame Induction in 1982; holds ML records for HR (755); RBI (2,297); total bases (6,856); most games played (3,298); hit 20 or more home runs for 20 consecutive seasons (1955-74); named to 24 All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves.
(Note: I did this Biofile with the Home Run King at an MLB dinner in NYC in the late 1990s. -SM)