The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
In the thirty-four years since his retirement, Henry (Hank) Aaron’s reputation has only grown in magnitude. But his influence extends beyond statistics, and at long last here is the first definitive biography of one of baseball’s immortal figures.
Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time—fighting against racism while at the same time benefiting from racial progress—and how he achieved his goal of continuing Jackie Robinson’s mission to obtain full equality for African Americans, both in baseball and society, while he lived uncomfortably in the public eye. Eloquently written, detailed and penetrating, this is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon.
managed to escape each problem, striking out eight, forcing double plays, giving up harmless two-out hits. The game was 1–1 until both teams tallied in the late innings. In the top of the ninth, Burdette labored to hold a 4–2 lead. With one on and two out, Willie Kirkland ripped a double to put the tying runs at the corners and the go-ahead run—Mr. Mays himself—at the plate. Burdette wouldn’t get the chance to face him. Haney called on Don McMahon. McMahon threw a fastball, and then another. And
stick figures in Henry’s potential night of drama. As was the baseball custom before the first game of any series, the Dodgers went over the Atlanta scouting report with the pitching staff, and Al Downing, the night’s starter, winced at what he perceived to be a whiff of the old racism that had been an insuperable ingredient of baseball soil. With regard to each of the black players in the lineup, the report echoed variations on the same theme, to pitch them in, on the hands. Invariably, someone
in a day was thirty-seven pounds. There were kids who could pick eighty pounds of cotton in a day. She was adventurous. She attended San Francisco State University before receiving a fellowship opportunity in Atlanta. She felt trepidation about returning to the South. The early skirmishes of the civil rights movement had made a deep impression on her, especially the confrontation in Little Rock, as it occurred the same year, 1957, she set out for California. “It was a wonderful opportunity, but
the next great player. The opposite was more likely true. In Henry, the Braves had the kind of player who could reverse the fortunes of an entire franchise, but no one in the organization—or in the game, really—knew quite how to deal with what Henry truly represented: the first signature black player in Braves history. Henry’s invitation to the Braves training camp was a telegram with the address in Bradenton of Mrs. Lulu Mae Gibson. Although Henry did not expect an invitation to stay at the
told the Defender. “Aaron’s the best hitter in our league. Yes, better than Willie Mays. He’s easily capable of bettering his 1956 figures.” IN LATER YEARS, when the power of the player (and in the 1990s the general manager) would eclipse that of the manager, what Fred Haney had done with Henry Aaron on the first day of spring workouts would be the kind of move that got managers fired. Aaron had won the batting title hitting cleanup. Henry had been the cleanup hitter since midway through his