Background: Baseball Icon
That same year, Aaron demonstrated his ability to come up big when it counted most. His 11th inning homerun in late September propelled the Braves to the World Series, where he led underdog Milwaukee to an upset win over the New York Yankees in seven games. Star Player
With the game still years away from the multimillion-dollar contracts that would later dominate player salaries, Aaron's annual pay in 1959 was around $30,000. When he equaled that amount that same year in endorsements, Aaron realized there may be more in store for him if he continued to hit for power. "I noticed that they never had a show called 'Singles Derby,'" he once explained.
He was right, of course, and over the next decade and a half, the always-fit Aaron banged out a steady stream of 30 and 40 home run seasons. In 1973, at the age of 39, Aaron was still a force, clubbing a remarkable 40 home runs to finish just one run behind Babe Ruth's all-time career mark of 714.
Still, Aaron pushed forward. He didn't try to inflame the atmosphere, but he didn't keep his mouth shut either, speaking out against the league's lack of ownership and management opportunities for minorities. "On the field, blacks have been able to be super giants," he once stated. "But, once our playing days are over, this is the end of it and we go back to the back of the bus again."
Overall, Aaron finished the 1974 season with 20 home runs. He played two more years, moving back to Milwaukee to finish out his career to play in the same city where he'd started.
After retiring as a player, Aaron moved into the Atlanta Braves front office as executive vice-president, where he has been a leading spokesman for minority hiring in baseball. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1982. His autobiography, I Had a Hammer, was published in 1990.
In 1999, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of breaking Ruth's record, Major League Baseball announced the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best overall hitter in each league.
Hank Aaron was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.