Baseball legend Hank Aaron will be remembered for his record number of home runs and his accomplishments in sports, but he will also be remembered for his contributions to society off the field.
Below is a collection of quotes from “Hammerin’ Hank” that give insight into the man behind the legend. Read them to see how he viewed his role in breaking color barriers, the struggles he faced breaking Babe Ruth’s record, and how he would like to be remembered.
“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”
“In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”
“Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.”
“I tell young people – including my granddaughter – there is no shortcut in life. You have to take it one step at a time and work hard. And you have to give back.”
“I would like people not to think in terms of the 755 home runs I hit but think in terms of what I’ve accomplished off the field and some of the things I stood for.”
“The only thing I can say is that I had a rough time with it. I don’t talk about it much. It still hurts a little bit inside, because I think it has chipped away at a part of my life that I will never have again. I didn’t enjoy myself. It was hard for me to enjoy something that I think I worked very hard for. God had given me the ability to play baseball, and people in this country kind of chipped away at me. So, it was tough. And all of those things happened simply because I was a black person.”
“Most of all, I pray that no one ever again, in any walk of life, has to go through what I did.”
“Consistency is what counts; you have to be able to do things over and over again.”
“I thought my chances to make the Braves were better and that they were being fairer to me, paying me more money to play in a lower classification … Besides, the Giants spelled my name “Arron” on their telegram.”
“I’m sure this is a hard thing to understand for somebody who isn’t black; but what kind of man would I be if I cashed in my fame and retired to a comfortable life with my wife and my trophies and my tennis court? See, I’m one of the lucky ones. I could do something that white people would pay to see. Singers, dancers, boxers, ballplayers — sure, we can make it in the white world. White people love to have us entertain them. But what about all the black teachers and mechanics and carpenters and janitors and waitresses? Am I supposed to say to them: Hey, folks, I know it’s rough, but look at me, I made it? What am I supposed to do with my good fortune? Am I just supposed to say, thank you, Lord, and then get fat and sign autographs for fifteen bucks a shot? I don’t believe that’s the reason God gave me the gifts that he did. I think that if I were the kind of man to be satisfied with the way things are, he would have given my eyes and my hands and my mind to somebody who would put them to better use.”
“I realize that if I hadn’t been able to hit the hell out of a baseball, I would have never been able to lay a finger on the good life that I’ve been fortunate to have. Playing baseball has given me all that a man could ask for–certainly a lot more than a timid little black kid like me ever dared to dream about. I’ve traveled the world, met Presidents, had my share of fortune and more fame than I ever wanted. I even have a place in history, if only for hitting home runs. The fact is, I have every reason to be content. My kids have all been to college. I don’t know how I managed to stumble onto the great woman who is my wife. Everything is just about perfect.”