Here’s what Hank Aaron really thought of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and black people in baseball

Hank Aaron thought The Great Bambino was closer to The Great Bamboozler since George Herman “Babe” Ruth never played against African American players.

Speaking of Ruth, Aaron bore lifelong scars from the racism he faced in the early 1970s when he sprinted to break Babe’s all-time record of 714-755.

Later, during the post-game period of Aaron’s life, when he was supposed to have become a beloved icon throughout society, he encountered enemies outside and within. from the same Atlanta Braves franchise he served as a player or office worker for nearly 70 years. .

Barry Bonds? The African-American slugger who then broke Aaron’s all-time record in August 2007?

Even with that steroid stuff, Aaron could tolerate Bonds, the gambler. On the other hand, he was so bothered by Bonds, the person, that he refused to do a 30 second commercial with Bonds for Charles Schwab worth 1.9 million dollars (a huge figure at the time) to run in the 2002 Super Bowl. Aaron eventually agreed, but he only did so after being guaranteed that he would not have to meet Bonds during filming.

What did George W. Bush whisper in Aaron’s ear at the White House in 2002 to push back the new recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Why did Aaron purge many of his friends in his 70s? Who could make you smile in a flash faster than this often hilarious guy with his contagious laugh?

Then there was Aaron and the myth.

About the Myth: To hear many people say, especially those involved in Major League Baseball, African Americans once got up and didn’t like the sport anymore.

You will find this line (along with everything I just mentioned) in my book called “The Real Hank Aaron: An Intimate Look at the Home Run King’s Life and Legacy,” which will go on sale Tuesday.

Through my 40-year relationship with Aaron that included exclusive conversations and insights involving the greatest player of all time, I’ve put this unprecedented look at Aaron into 270 pages.

Among other things, you will discover Truth instead of Myth.

Aaron preferred The Truth regarding the trigger for the drop of African-American players in Major League Baseball from its peak of around 25% in the mid-1970s to 7% these days for an industry that Forbes Top contributor Maury Brown said he could surpass the record $11 billion this season in gross revenue.

“They’re trying to get all these people from all over the world to play Major League Baseball. (Those who run MLB) don’t give a fuck, not a hill of beans, of one (African American) person. Not a thing whether we play baseball or not,” Aaron told me in a 2007 interview, first revealed in the book. “That baseball game, and you have to watch it, that that game was like that, it was just bent until Jackie Robinson came along and took it to another level of play and tried to make it exciting for the fans – both black and white.”

Robinson became Aaron’s hero after Jackie trotted onto Ebbets Field with his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers to break baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947.

Seven years later, Aaron began his Baseball Hall of Fame sprint – 25 All-Star Game selections, 2,297 RBI and 1,477 extra hits (all records) to join his 3,771 hits and 2,174 points scored – spending 21 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves and his last two with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Aaron left Wisconsin for Georgia during that fall of 1976 to join his brother-in-law, Bill Lucas, as the first African-American executives in MLB history after Braves owner Ted Turner hired Lucas as general manager a few months before giving Aaron a front. office work.

Nonetheless, from the peak of Aaron’s playing career in the 1960s until his last breath on January 22, 2021, he believed the game he cherished spent years systematically eliminating African Americans from the game.

He believed baseball had a quota system.

As I mention in the book, Aaron was not alone in having such thoughts among prominent African-American players of his generation – as well as other players, managers, coaches and officials (black and white) in the Major League Baseball when I did a thorough study. of the game in 1982 for the San Francisco Examiner. I even found out at the time during my research that MLB had a slot for running on its computerized scouting reports (neither the NFL nor the NBA had such a thing), and baseball has no not removed this distinction until I brought it to the attention of then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who at first denied its presence.

This is where I first met Aaron.

We have become kindred spirits, especially during my 25 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution until April 2009 as the first African-American general sports columnist in the Deep South while becoming the Hank Aaron Whisperer.

Not only that, but I went from being a 12-year-old baseball fan — who bought a poster of Hank Aaron that I still have on a wall in my Atlanta home — to an honorary pallbearer at his funeral in the author of The real Hank Aaron.

Garland K. Long