Henry (Hank) Aaron, who passed away yesterday at age 86, is best remembered for breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time MLB home run record, finally finishing with 755, to Ruth’s 714. Aaron broke Ruth’s mark in the face of ugly Jim Crow racism in 1974.
His death is somewhat ironic in its timing, as the MLB HoF balloting is to be announced on January 26, which is next Tuesday. On the ballot again is Barry Bonds, who hit 762 HRs, and was the greatest player ever. And there’s Roger Clemens, who went 354-184, to become the greatest pitcher ever, etc.
But old-timers like Hank Aaron have insisted they be kept out due to PEDs. Except that Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was the “Steroid Commissioner,” and he’s in the HoF, elected by a committee of Hank Aaron’s peers.
Fans need to understand that there were two coffee pots in the clubhouse– regular, and the one spiked with greenies which was called “leaded.” There were bowls full of amphetamines that you could help yourself to, etc. That’s how the players did it in Hank Aaron’s era, so don’t have any illusions when making past allusions. Most sportswriters looked the other way, just like they (& fans) did when McGwire & Sosa were swatting all their bombs.
There’s no merit to these exclusionist objections, and in fact, they’re hypocritical. A bunch of PED users have already gotten in, and once that happens, you have to let them all in, to be fair. Relatively speaking, there’s much more steroid abuse in the NFL & NCAAF, and it’s gone on much longer. Too few sports fans want to be serious about this, which is why these issues persist.
Henry Aaron was the last Negro League player to go to MLB, before they all folded after integration, which began with Jackie Robinson in April 1947. Hank Aaron played for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952, before being selected by the Milwaukee Braves. Like Jackie, Hank was a very hard man, due to his early-life circumstances. In the end, baseball fans celebrate his talent, determination & extraordinary courage more than anything. RIP Henry Aaron