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Oh (How I Admire) Henry! Remembering The Indomitable Henry Aaron

January 23, 2021

Start (the first instruction word from Word Press) with Henry Louis Aaron, as is the case with Henry Louis Gehrig, clearly one of the six greatest baseball players yet to have played (Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays), is forever associated with the greatest (he was a star pitcher, vaulting him to the top spot, if not before without it), George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

I need not cite the numbers, do a “Casey Stengel” and look them up, but will note Henry Aaron drove in more runs than any player in baseball history.

Memories abound, accomplishments were great and as cited before here, I met Mr. Aaron on two occasions, one with his lovely wife Billye Williams, manifesting in each laughing when I said there were 1,181 home runs between them. ( Billy Williams, another baseball treasure from the state of Alabama and all that will forever entail in this country that moved away from an all time low in having J.R. Biden replace Trump in the top office days back, but brought chained human beings to pick cotton and enslaved them, hit 426 “taters” —hear “Old Man River” in all its versions!!).

My father wanted me to get interested in sports, especially baseball. He regretted creating a bit of a monster. Our enjoyment of the games together was limited by that and other factors. Yet I ought to be grateful that we had our moments together, a truly great one involving him calling my “non sports fan,” mother who he somehow got to marry him, though he courted her at the Polo Grounds.

He “IDA’d” twice regarding baseball, calling her to watch the immediacy of television, something the two of them realized more profoundly than me, having lived many years without its good and as it manifested, mostly bad.

The last time was in his last and baseball’s last TRUE game (You know how I feel about the wild card presence!) when Joe Carter’s 3RHR transformed a one run deficit into a second straight Toronto Blue Jays crown in game 6 of the 1993 World Series, when teams from Canada were “allowed” to win such seemingly important, but really not things. (Only the 2019 Toronto Raptors have won a major North American sports title since Carter’s historic home run, leaving among other notes, the fact Alex Trebek, the narrator of the NHL Stanley Cup film the last time Toronto’s Maple Leafs won it/The Cup, in 1967, who died in fateful 2020, as having done so, without being on earth for a subsequent Maple Leafs final round appearance, no less a title.

Dad called my mother’s name so excited, though he probably wanted the Babe’s 714 home runs to still top the list, when Henry connected vs another 44, Al Downing on Monday night April 8, 1974 in a game we were fortunate to see, as NBC with the great broadcaster Curt Gowdy, TV’d it to the nation.

As stated I met Henry and Billye and mentioned the 1,181 plus my great admiration.

It extends far beyond the baseball field as Mr. Aaron was an influence of good on so many younger players, notably Ralph Garr and a player I know pretty well, Dusty Baker as told in Howard Bryant’s fine book “The Last Hero,” about Henry, which I am so glad to have read.

He (Aaron) was a beacon of light in the civil rights movement and even though it ended tragically that day in Dallas, (another piece of history/fact that will forever haunt us and will do so even more if we do not improve our “LEVELS” regarding race, ethnicity, the poor, vs greed, compassion and overall giving), I admire Aaron’s vision in helping JFK win the Wisconsin Primary in 1960.

In no obituary, (I really can not afford newspapers and their plight which often “big mouth” me contributes to, clearly saddens me, but can I help the fact they/the system took my mother?!!) and honesty compels me to admit to not being able to read most (The Washington Post’s obituary regarding Henry, was superb) was mention made of the fact, Hank, he clearly preferred Henry, but I allow myself one Hank, homered to clinch the ’57 pennant, one en route to Aaron’s only title in the subsequent World Series win vs the vaunted Yankees, who reversed the 7 game result a year later, in a game vs the St. Louis Cardinals on September 23rd.

If I can trust the facts written/typed on this thing called the internet, Aaron’s pennant clinching blow was the only such occurrence via a game ending (I also abhor the term they now use for such a play, although Gross warned that when a home team falls behind in a potential last inning, they do not have to “4 letters, 3 letters” the field) home run in regular season/non playoffs, baseball annals.

Two memories before this tangential, emotional lover of “my time baseball” and certainly the great Henry Aaron, attempts to circumvent grief and regret by producing/doing, each involving old friends.

A Sunday in 1973, talking before “Braves at Mets,” with fellow Aaron fan, Brad Weiner and assessing Henry’s pursuit of the Babe’s hallowed record. It would be a good day in that regard, two home runs by “The Hammer,” one I vividly being called in such beautiful fashion, by Mets’ broadcaster, Bob Murphy. (Where oh where is the recording?).

The last one, it is “late September (1973) and “I really ought to have made a move/told Renee (how do you type the accent over and which e?) how I felt (mistakenly I told such to Christine “too soon” hence as seemingly always no “even part of the moon”).

Instead of, I am sleeping on the couch, the great Michael Santasieri and Ms. Renee watching television and news is transported that Henry homered that Saturday night and is within, I believe 2 home runs of Mr. Ruth.

I seemed to awaken just as that news was heard. Both find it funny and typical, especially Mr. Santasieri, who long knew of my sports involvement.

Much of that love, also a failed one (no job from it) probably germinated from a shy only child’s lack of romance and a strong appreciation of the day’s great players such as Henry and equally, if not more important (I knew I was not to be as they say Mickey Mantle, but I could have approached Marv Albert–the just as great Joe Tait said so–and surely topped just about any that permeate today—) the time’s great broadcasters.

Through it all, through the tears literal (fine) but the seemingly eternal figurative ones, I am glad I loved baseball then and greats such as Henry Aaron forever.

He was an incredible man, so tested by enduring racism, so propped up from love and less but still important an incredible ability to play what is still a great game.

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