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Henry Aaron left his mark on the world by breaking Babe Ruth's record for home runs. But the world has also left its mark on him.
"Hammering Hank" Aaron's story is one that tells us much about baseball, naturally, but also about our times. His unique, poignant life has made him a symbol for much of the social history of twentieth-century America.
Raised during the Depression in the Deep South enclave of Mobile, Alabama, Aaron broke into professional baseball as a cross-handed slugger and shortstop for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. A year later, he and a few others had the unforgettable mission of integrating the South Atlantic League. A year after that, he was a timid rookie leftfielder for the Milwaukee Braves, for whom he became a World Series hero in 1957 as well as the Most Valuable Player of the National League.
Aaron found himself back in the South when the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965. Nine years later, in the heat of hatred and controversy, he hit his 715th home run to break Ruth's and baseball's most cherished record--a feat that was recently voted the greatest moment in baseball history. That year, Aaron received over 900,000 pieces of mail, many of them vicious and racially charged.
In a career that may be the most consistent baseball has ever seen. Aaron also set all-time records for total bases and RBIs. He ended his playing days by spending two nostalgic seasons back in Milwaukee with the Brewers, then embarked on a new career as an executive with the Atlanta Braves. He was for a long time the highest-ranking black in baseball. In this position, Aaron has become an unofficial spokesman in racial matters pertaining to thenational pastime.
Because of the depth and pertinence of Aaron's dramatic experiences, "I Had A Hammer" is more than a baseball autobiography. Henry Aaron's candor and insights have produced a revealing book about his extraordinary life and time.
The uplifting, unlikely, and inspirational true story of the friendships formed between Cam Perron-a white, baseball-obsessed teenager from Boston-and hundreds of former professional Negro League players, who were still awaiting the recognition and compensation that they deserved from Major League Baseball more than fifty years after their playing days were over. Featuring the players' fascinating stories and original photographs. Cam Perron always loved history, and from an early age, he had a knack for collecting. But when he was twelve and bought a set of Topps baseball cards featuring several players from the Negro Leagues, something clicked. Cam started writing letters to former Negro League players in 2007, asking for their autographs and a few words about their careers. He got back much more than he expected. The players responded with detailed stories about their glory days on the field, and the racism they faced, including run-ins with the KKK. They explained how they were repeatedly kept out of the major leagues and confined to the historic but lower-paying Negro Leagues, even after Jackie Robinson-who got his start in the Negro Leagues-broke the color barrier. By the time Cam finished middle school, letters had turned into phone calls, and he was spending hours a day talking with the players. In these conversations, many of the players revealed that their careers had been unrecognized over time, and they'd fallen out of touch with their former teammates. So Cam, along with a small group of fellow researchers, organized the first annual Negro League Players Reunion in Birmingham, Alabama in 2010. At the celebratory, week-long event, fifteen-year-old Cam and the players-who were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s-finally met in person. They quickly became family. As Cam and the players returned to the reunion year after year, Cam became deeply involved in a complicated mission to help many players get pension money that they were owed from Major League Baseball. He also worked to get a Negro League museum opened in Birmingham, and stock it with memorabilia. Sports fans-and anyone who enjoys a heartfelt story-will have their eyes opened by this book about unlikely friendships, the power of memories, and just how far a childhood interest can go.
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