Friday, June 18, 2010

Read Up on the Hammer

I don't usually do book reviews--I realize anything I recommend won't immediately jump to the top of the list like Glenn Beck or Oprah picks--but I encourage you to check out a new biography of Hank Aaron written by Howard Bryant--The Last Hero: A Life Of Henry Aaron.

Somehow, the man who held the most sacred record in sports for 33-years is the most under-appreciated American hero in history. A lot of that is due to choices made by Hank himself. He never went for the big-dollar endorsement deals. He was very soft-spoken and tight-lipped during his playing days and never sought to capitilize on his accomplishments by hawking his own line of t-shirts, autographed memorabilia and theme restaurants. I think Hank is more proud of the work he has done off the field trying to raise the African-American community out of the "victim culture" that has kept it behind other racial groups for so long.

When Hank Aaron talks about racism in our culture it carries a lot more weight with me than some others nowadays. He couldn't eat with his teammates in the same restaurant while playing minor league ball in the South Atlantic League, couldn't live in the same apartment buildings as his teammates during Spring Training in Florida and check out some of the death threats he received while chasing Babe Ruth's record. Kind of puts "being the only African-American in a Harvard Law School class" in perspective.

And the fact that Hank played here in Wisconsin for more than a decade--and there is so little honor for him around the state frustrates me. Where is Henry Aaron Drive in our cities? Or the Hank Aaron Little League park? Let's bestow some of those honors while we still have Hank around to receive them. And let's make sure kids know that Hank hit all of his home runs without the help of illegal steroids and in an era where the rules of the game favored the pitchers more than the hitters.

Let's give Henry Aaron the hero's treatment he has gone so long without. He has definitely earned it.

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