Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, the legendary MLB slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s longstanding homerun record in April 1974, has died. He was 86.
Born in Mobile, AL, in 1934, Aaron made his Major League debut for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. After winning the World Series in 1957 – the same year Aaron won his only MVP award – the team relocated to Atlanta in 1966.
There, at the height of the American civil rights movement of the 20th century, Aaron wasn’t just an icon on the diamond but among society at large. He was a genuine sports hero and equality trailblazer, much like boxing’s Muhammad Ali.
Indeed, the indomitably confident Ali famously gushed about Aaron, characterizing him simply as:
“The only man I idolize more than myself.”
Of course, for baseball fans and MLB bettors who grew up watching “Hammerin’ Hank,” Aaron’s contributions on the ballfield don’t begin and end with his consistency as a home run hitter.
Curiously, despite being the MLB’s all-time HR leader for 33 years after breaking Ruth’s record (Barry Bonds would eventually eclipse Aaron’s 755 homeruns in 2007), Aaron led the NL in single-season home runs just four times: 1957, 1963, 1966, and 1967. Even more surprisingly, he led the Majors in HR just once, in 1957.
The Hammer never hit more than 44 HR in a single season, in fact, well off the pace of Maris’ then-record 61 homers in 1961. That year, Aaron went deep only 31 times.
But that wasn’t an aberration: Those 31 home runs were right around Aaron’s career seasonal average of 32.8 HR.
Nevertheless, because Aaron played at a high level for so much of his uninterrupted 23-year career, that steady productivity took him to the top of the mountain.
And not just for home runs.
Hank Aaron finished his Hall of Fame career with a .305 batting average, good for 143rd on the all-time list. Of course, virtually no players with higher averages played in the live ball era and/or played for so long.
In his prime, Aaron’s average hovered around the .320s.
Now, any player that finishes a reasonable career of 15 or more years with a batting average over .300 is considered a lock for Cooperstown, and Aaron’s BA is the worst of his many gaudy statistics.
Aaron ranks first all-time in RBI with 2297. He’s also third all-time in hits with 3771, behind only Pete Rose (4256) and Ty Cobb (4189).
Further, Aaron has played in an MLB-record 24 All-Star Games, making his league’s All-Star roster 25 times. That record is going nowhere, particularly as the MLB now has just a single ASG each year.
In Aaron’s distinguished career, he’s also amassed two NL batting titles (1956, 1959), three Gold Glove awards for his outfield play (1958, 1959, 1960), led the NL in RBI four times (1957, 1960, 1963, 1966), has had his number 44 retired by the Braves and Brewers, and is a member of the MLB All-Century Team, among other accolades.
And, of course, Aaron now ranks second all-time in home runs with 755, though many view Bonds’ 762 longballs as illegitimate (fairly or unfairly), thanks to unproven allegations of PED use in baseball’s so-called “Steroid Era.”
There will never be another Hank Aaron.
That much is clear.
But for fans of America’s Pastime, though he’s now gone, Aaron hasn’t – and won’t – ever leave the building.
For sports bettors in particular, while Aaron has crossed home for the final time, he’ll still feature prominently on the baseball betting boards as modern players close in on his various achievements.
But frankly, most of his numbers are legitimately untouchable.
The only record Aaron holds that is remotely within striking distance for a current MLB player is his RBI total of 2297.
Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels currently has 2100 RBI, but at 41 years of age, it remains to be seen if he’ll play long enough to eclipse Aaron.
Pujols has only one year left on his contract with the Angels, and he’s averaged just 80.4 RBI over the last five years. Needing 197 RBI to catch Aaron, at his current pace, he’d have to play at least two and a half more seasons. In 2020, Pujols had only 25 RBI.
If you find any MLB prop bets on Prince Albert’s chances to take the RBI crown away from the home run king, bet against them.
It’s not happening.
Not now, not ever.
And you can take that to the bank.