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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hank Aaron

Eligible in 1982

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 09:57 PM | 177 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 09:59 PM (#2108821)
Not much to add, is there?
   2. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: July 23, 2006 at 10:03 PM (#2108826)
Never hit more than 40 homers in a season. F'ing loser if you ask me.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 10:13 PM (#2108843)
Never hit more than 40 homers in a season.

I'm assuming you meant 50, which he would have done in a neutral park.
   4. karlmagnus Posted: July 23, 2006 at 10:56 PM (#2108901)
The Jake Beckley of home run hitters!
   5. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 11:02 PM (#2108914)
The Jake Beckley of home run hitters!

:-)
   6. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: July 23, 2006 at 11:13 PM (#2108937)
19 straight seasons with an OPS+ of at least 143. That's amazing.
   7. TomH Posted: July 23, 2006 at 11:42 PM (#2108978)
The Hammer holds two records more important then "755".

One - most lifetime RBI
Two - most lifetime total bases

And he DESERVES to hold them both. Put every ballplayer in a neutral context, and I suspect Cobb scores the most runs, Babe hits the most homers, Rickey steals the most bases, Rose gets the most hits (or maybe Cap Anson figures in here somewhere, but it's really hard to project 1872 to 1972, ya know?).

Let everyone play together, and Henry Aaron drives in more runs than anyone, and collects more total bases.

That doesn't make him the greatest player ever, but he's solidly in my top 10. His perceived lack of peak? Masked by the strong quality of league he played in, and other superstars active at the same time.
   8. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 12:03 AM (#2109006)
One record that Hank Aaron no longer holds is first place all time in alphabetical order.

Curse you David Aardsma!!!

:-)
   9. Rob Base Posted: July 24, 2006 at 12:06 AM (#2109010)
I vote yes.
   10. Flynn Posted: July 24, 2006 at 12:15 AM (#2109013)
Not much peak or career for me.
   11. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 24, 2006 at 12:25 AM (#2109023)
One record that Hank Aaron no longer holds is first place all time in alphabetical order.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   12. OCF Posted: July 24, 2006 at 12:49 AM (#2109043)
This is pure silliness, since it doesn't correct for context and context is everything - but take the home run hitters and sort their seasonal totals from most to least.

Who hit the most home runs in his best year? Bonds of course. The most in the second best year? McGwire. The most in the third best year? Sosa. Here's the full chart:

#1: 73 Bonds
#2: 65 McGwire
#3: 63 Sosa
#4: 54 Ruth
#5: 49 Ruth, McGwire, Sosa
#6: 47 Ruth
#7: 46 Ruth
#8: 46 Ruth
#9: 46 Ruth
#10: 41 Ruth
#11: 41 Ruth
#12: 35 Ruth
#13: 34 Ruth, Aaron
#14: 33 Bonds
#15: 30 Aaron
#16: 29 Aaron
#17: 27 Aaron
#18: 26 Aaron
#19: 24 Aaron
#20: 20 Aaron
#21: 13 Aaron
#22: 12 Aaron
#23: 10 Aaron
#24: 2 Henderson
#25: 1 Henderson

I'm not 100% sure of the accuracy.
   13. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:55 AM (#2109094)
19 straight seasons with an OPS+ of at least 143. That's amazing.


14 straight double-digit WARP seasons.
   14. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:23 AM (#2109112)
10 straight 30+ WS Seasons.

5 WS MVP's. 2 2nds, 3 3rds, 3 4ths, 1 5th and 1 6th.

For a guy with a perceived lack of peak, he's 8th all-time in black ink behind Ruth, Cobb, Hornsby, TWilliams, Musial, Wagner and Brouthers (tied with Lajoie). The guys above him were the lead-the-league-every-year-in-everything types. Its only a perceived lack of peak when comparing to others in the inner circle.

Granted, "Black Ink" is slanted towards traditional stats (Hank doesn't have any OBP titles), but its still impressive.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:53 AM (#2109132)
Let's see if Hank and Robby can REALLY stack up to our modern sluggers:

adj OPS+ seasons by some 1Bs and OFs as a regular, 100 or better (477 PA for 154 games, and 502 for 162 games, like batting title qualifying:
HankAaron 194 81 79 78 70 68 66 61 60 55 54 53 53 51 48 47 43 43 04
FRobinson 199 88 74 69 64 65 55 53 53 51 51 50 42 41 34 33 19
Killebrew 179 74 61 61 58 53 47 45 38 38 38 37
RalpKiner 184 84 73 56 46 40 32 21 17
FraHoward 177 77 70 53 46 44 37 27
OrlCepeda 165 64 57 48 35 34 33 31 29 25 17 10 06
BoJohnson 174 55 47 43 41 35 34 30 29 29 27 25 25
Norm-Cash 201 50 48 36 35 34 29 28 28 20
MinMinoso 155 51 49 40 36 35 33 31 21 16 13 08

Kiner had at least 640 PA eight times in a 154-game season. Bonus!
Cash reached that number only twice.
Minoso hit 630 PA 10 times - again, Cash only twice.
Howard averaged a stunning 690 PA in his three monster seasons. Bonus!
Cepeda was never once below 550 PA in a qualifying season. Bonus!
Johnson had 10 600+ PAs in 154-game seasons, bonus - but his best year came in 144 (the other 140+ marks came in the 1930s, however).
Killebrew 640 PA eight times (also a 146 in 479 PA not listed here). Bonus!
Aaron 15 630+ Pa 15 times (also a 177 in 465 PAs not listed here). Bonus bonus!
FRobinson 620 PA+ 11 times. Bonus!

Oh my. Can we possibly have a voter who doesn't have them 1-2, in that order?

Bummer for FRobby, whose top 16 seasons smell like a top-10 all-time, at least not adjusted for position. Look what he does even to an obvious HOMer like Killebrew.
   16. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:59 AM (#2109136)
"Oh my. Can we possibly have a voter who doesn't have them 1-2, in that order?"

Karl?
   17. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:31 AM (#2109160)
The Hammer holds two records more important then "755".

One - most lifetime RBI
Two - most lifetime total bases


Fun fact: his lead over second place in the latter category is 12 miles. Yes, miles.
   18. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 04:00 AM (#2109175)
Fun fact: his lead over second place in the latter category is 12 miles. Yes, miles.

Excellent! :-) You just made my day.

12.3 miles or 64980 ft or 722 bases.
   19. karlmagnus Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:17 PM (#2109380)
Manny Ramirez has a decent shot at the RBI record if he stays healthy; it looks to me like he has a much better shot at that than at Aaron's HR record. A-Rod, conversely, is the other way round.
   20. kthejoker Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:19 PM (#2109385)
Yes, his perceived lack of peak can be summed up fairly simply: From 1957 to 1969 - 13 full seasons - only 13 players ever finished ahead of Aaron in OPS+ in the NL.

Mays 7, Frank Robinson 4, Richie Allen 4, Willie McCovey 3, Roberto Clemente 2, Ron Santo 2, Eddie Matthews, Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Rico Carty, Willie Stargell, Joe Torre, Jimmy Wynn

And on a 7 year consecutive peak of 1959-1965, if you remove Mays and Robinson, Aaron wins 5 OPS+ titles (and finishes 2nd and 4th), another total bases title, another runs created title, and the intentional walks title.

Which brings us, of course, to perhaps his only weakness, which is the relatively low walk total for someone of his prowess. It's telling that despite his amazingly long and consistent career, in which he literally ran miles around his opponents (see #18), he only finished 23rd in career walks, behind Mays, Robinson, Matthews, and his PA/BB is 8.81, well below most of the people listed above.

Does anyone here have a more anecdotal reason why Aaron did not have the walk totals of his peers?
   21. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:33 PM (#2109395)
Post 20:

Well, having someone like Eddie Matthews hitting behind you for a good while as teammates might have something to do with it. That and Hank was as good a "bad ball" hitter as there was in the major leagues. Remember Vlad's homer in the All-Star game? Hank did similar things. If he liked it he swung whether it was at his ankles or five inches off the plate outside.

My favorite "stat" on Hank is that against the right-handed pitcher that batters hated to face most, Don Drysdale, Hank hit 18 homers. Don would buzz him, Hank would lean back (he rarely hit the deck, would just sort of LEEEAAANNN back), and then KAPOW!

And by the way, I saw his entire career.
   22. bunyon Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:39 PM (#2109401)
And by the way, I saw his entire career.

Hank Aaron is maybe the only player I'm jealous of not ever seeing play. I've seen a number of later players who old-timers (sorry, Harvey) tell me remind them of someone. No one ever seems to have an analog of Aaron.
   23. Mike Webber Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:37 PM (#2109465)
My Hank Aaron story:
The first time I remember my parents taking me to a game was in 1975 (I'd have been 7) so we could see Hank Aaron come to KC with the Brewers. I don't really remember the game, just that we went. If I watched the game like my daughter it probably means I viewed it while eating bags of peanuts and swilling colas.

When I was working on my Royals book that never got published, I was going through photos from the Lawrence Journal World and found pictures of Aaron in BP in the series I was at. So now I have a few photos from the frist game I ever remember attending.
   24. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:38 PM (#2109467)
Hank Aaron is maybe the only player I'm jealous of not ever seeing play.

I first saw him during his battle for THE record. Not really a great player anymore, but still a very good one. Certainly better than my own memories of the "Say Hey Kid."
   25. Mike Emeigh Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:47 PM (#2109483)
No one ever seems to have an analog of Aaron.


There were a lot of similarities between Aaron and Clemente, actually, although they weren't exactly analogs. It would have been interesting to see how their careers would have developed had they swapped parks.

-- MWE
   26. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:49 PM (#2109486)
Manny Ramirez has a decent shot at the RBI record if he stays healthy; it looks to me like he has a much better shot at that than at Aaron's HR record. A-Rod, conversely, is the other way round.

On the RBI by Age 33 list, Ramirez is 7th and is 127 behind Aaron.
On the RBI by Age 29 list, A-Rod is 3rd and is 105 RBI ahead of Aaron.
   27. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:50 PM (#2109488)
bunyon:

No offense here. I AM old. Ha, ha.

But the closest thing today is the young man I mentioned earlier. Vlad is similar to Hank in that as a hitter he can hit anything but still controls the strike zone. Average plus power. When folks said Hank wasn't as good as Willie because he didn't steal bases Hank went out and stole 31. Vlad stole bases for a while then decided it wasn't worth the wear and tear. Both made their share of plays in the outfield but at times their arms would be a bit wild.

Efficient, effective, quiet hustle. Hank's edge is that he played in tougher context for a while and in his limited postseason chances he ROCKED. Vlad hasn't done that.
   28. karlmagnus Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:59 PM (#2109500)
Yes, but Manny's not 4 years older than A-Rod, and A-Rod's not 29, he's 31. Manny has a lead currently of 190 RBI (1487/1297) but only 11HR (461/450) his shot at the RBI record (he's 64.7% of the way there) is thus relatively better than at the HR record.

If Manny and A-Rod retire at exactly the same age, and have the same trajectory to that age, then A-Rod will beat Manny, by a margin in HR and by a little in RBI. However, Manny is 3 years older (i.e. has had no career ending injuries/slowdowns in years 31-34) and I'd expect him to last longer than A-Rod, who came up very young and strikes me as fragile. YMMV. Either would have to play till 40 with no major injuries or slowdown to get there (moderate slowdown's OK) I think Manny has a significantly higher probability of achieving that.
   29. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:06 PM (#2109509)
My favorite "stat" on Hank is that against the right-handed pitcher that batters hated to face most, Don Drysdale, Hank hit 18 homers.

Random tangent: In 1959, Don Drysdale threw 69.3 IP against the Braves. I just looked up an absurd number of pitcher vs. team splits over the last few weeks (all splits every year since 1957 for all my RSI guys -- over 16,000 splits in all), and that's the most innings one man tossed against one team. Drysdale also tossed 55.7 innings against the Giants that year. Gee, ya think maybe Alston was reserving Drysdale for the best opposing teams that year?

In 1958 Drysdale threw 62 innings against the Braves. He barely pitched over 200 innings total that year. Over the course of two years, around 5% of Aaron's at bats came against one pitcher. Neat trick.
   30. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:10 PM (#2109512)
My favorite "stat" on Hank is that against the right-handed pitcher that batters hated to face most, Don Drysdale, Hank hit 18 homers.

I'm really loving these pitcher matchups at retrosheet. They only go back to 1957, so they only have 17 of those homers tallied, but these types of factoids are easily verifiable for years from 1957-on.

Aaron had power against Drysdale for sure, but (.261/.341/.578 i), but Drysdale also struck him out more than other pitchers did. Dodger fans probably remember fearing Hank quite a bit. He knocked Osteen (.262/.380/.667) around and murdered the lefty Koufax (.372/.437/.664 i). Probably some of that Koufax line was damage done in the LA Coliseum. Sutton had Aaron figured out though (.241/.295/.379).

Guys who gave Aaron fits (1957-on, 78+ AB) are Turk Ferrell, Tom Seaver, Jack Sanford, Bob Gibson, Don Sutton and Glen Hobbie (?!). (78 was chosen to catch Seaver on the list).
   31. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:25 PM (#2109538)
Yes, but Manny's not 4 years older than A-Rod, and A-Rod's not 29, he's 31. Manny has a lead currently of 190 RBI (1487/1297) but only 11HR (461/450) his shot at the RBI record (he's 64.7% of the way there) is thus relatively better than at the HR record.

Yeah, those numbers were through last season. There is a bit of birthday endpoint action going on as Manny was born six weeks before the July 1 cutoff and A-Rod was born three weeks after the July 1 cutoff. So Manny is only 3-years and 9 weeks older but is going to show up 4 years older on bb-ref. I gotta use the bb-ref lists because I'm lazy. :-) Even if its just a three year gap, then 190 RBI in three years is not much of a barrier and Slumping A-Rod is still only 2 RBI behind Manny this year.

Even though A-Rod has already locked up 3rd place on the "By Age 30" list, that list is littered with players that didn't age well (Foxx, Ott, Gehrig, Griffey, Simmons, Mantle, Medwick, Gonzalez). Only Aaron escaped an early decline.
   32. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:25 PM (#2109540)
David:

There's an old story recounted in "I had a Hammer" that I had heard well before the book about Hank and his rep around the league. The Dodgers staff would meet before each series against an opponent and discuss how the batters should be pitched. So they go through the Reds and explain how to handle Frank Robinson. Or against the Pirates and Clemente. Even Willie they had a plan. Then the Braves come up and after talking about Matthews and so forth somebody asks, "What about Aaron?".

There's a moment of silence and then somebody volunteers, "When he hits one, make sure nobody's on base."
   33. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2006 at 03:50 PM (#2109574)
But the closest thing today is the young man I mentioned earlier. Vlad is similar to Hank in that as a hitter he can hit anything but still controls the strike zone. Average plus power. When folks said Hank wasn't as good as Willie because he didn't steal bases Hank went out and stole 31. Vlad stole bases for a while then decided it wasn't worth the wear and tear. Both made their share of plays in the outfield but at times their arms would be a bit wild.

Efficient, effective, quiet hustle. Hank's edge is that he played in tougher context for a while and in his limited postseason chances he ROCKED. Vlad hasn't done that.


Vlad's a good comp in terms of manner of effectiveness, but not really in terms of how they appeared on the field. Guerrero always seems to have a bit of a ragged edge to him, but Aaron's every movement was smooth as glass. He ran with an odd heel-to-toe gliding stride, kind of like he was just walking really fast, keeping his head and upper body very still. His batting stroke was a picture of calm efficiency, never overstriding or overswinging, with the very most pronounced snap of the wrists of any batter I have ever seen: his wrist strength was astonishing.
   34. Boots Day Posted: July 24, 2006 at 04:08 PM (#2109596)
Aaron wasn't built at all like today's power hitters. He was more like Alfonso Soriano: sinewy all over.
   35. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2006 at 05:14 PM (#2109715)
Aaron wasn't built at all like today's power hitters. He was more like Alfonso Soriano: sinewy all over.

Correct. The image most younger fans have of Aaron is from when he was breaking the career HR record, at which point he was 40 and had developed quite the little belly. But until his mid-to-late 30s, Aaron was very lean and agile.
   36. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 06:25 PM (#2109809)
The image most younger fans have of Aaron is from when he was breaking the career HR record, at which point he was 40 and had developed quite the little belly.

Some of this was also no-doubt due to the unflattering uniforms worn in the 1970s. Doing a Google Image searching for "Hank Aaron 1973" will pop up his 1973 card depicting him (presumably in 1972) camped under a fly ball and he looks fine. In some of his later Brewer cards he's showing his age a bit, but the nicer uniforms of today would hide that quite a bit better.
   37. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 24, 2006 at 06:45 PM (#2109835)
A theory that Mike Webber and Ken F have heard from me that I figured might fit in right here.

I've never seen Aaron swing a bat live. But last year, I saw a brief clip of him at the plate that was shot from behind the batter's box. At the time, I was astounded by his swing! He literally lunged at the ball. As a 31 year old reared on 1990s baseball swings, I simply couldn't believe it. Aaron lunged, which meant that he had less time and more inertial energy moving against his ability to fully rotate his hips through the hitting zone, making the strength of his wrists and arms paramount.

I marveled, but I didn't think much of it until this month when I was in KC for the Jerry Malloy conference. A fellow showed a video that included Jackie Robinson's full swing. Just like Aaron, He lunged. So I thought back on other pictures and videos I'd seen of swings. I remember Joe D being the same, and so too Roberto Clemente. Probably Willie Mays too. Again, I was dumbstuck. How could these guys generate power on any pitch that wasn't out over the plate or on the outer half? And for that matter, with their bodies in mid lunge potentially hanging in space as they lunged, how could they make themselves that vulnerable to headhunters like Gibson or Drysdale?

The answer, I think, is that they didn't. In fact, if two video clips of top level hitters can verify anything (and they probably can't), then it's possible that hitters from the 1940s-1970s were giving up the inner half by lunging at the ball as part of their normal swing. Think for a second about the swing of Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell's stride is essentially to move his foot a half inch or so, replant it, and swivel his hips. Same for Bonds. Or McGwire. I'd bet dollars to donuts that this is exactly what "Bucketfoot Al" did too becuase he couldn't lunge away from the plate after all. Hitters today or with this technique generate power through biomechanical force rather than through a lunging forward motion. And it allows them to control the inner half of the plate because they aren't moving into the pitch as it comes, but rather sitting back and turning through it. It's interesting to think of in another way: when did the core muscles become more important than the arms? In a contemporary swing, the core muscles are vital to engineering full torque, and players work out their cores. Did anyone before the 1980s work out their core? I just don't know.

All of which leads me to wonder when the change over from lunging to turning took place and how much of the home run increase of the 1990s was fueled by universal adoption of that technique, which, in turn, led to pitchers abandoning the inside pitch because hitters now fully controlled that part of the zone.
   38. Jose Canusee Posted: July 24, 2006 at 07:38 PM (#2109907)
And by the way, I saw his entire career...

Hank Aaron is maybe the only player I'm jealous of not ever seeing play...

I first started following baseball in 1969 in Atlanta; when Aaron got any HRs (he was in the low 500's) there would be a short column in the Journal-Constitution with where he ranked, and people were then talking about him and Ruth. Having hit "only" 29 in the Year of the Pitcher, a purely Favorite Toy calc probably would not have given him a good chance, but then he ripped off a string of 40+ years to pull up to 713.
   39. Sean Gilman Posted: July 24, 2006 at 07:43 PM (#2109916)
However, Manny is 3 years older (i.e. has had no career ending injuries/slowdowns in years 31-34) and I'd expect him to last longer than A-Rod, who came up very young and strikes me as fragile. YMMV.

May vary indeed.

Rodriguez's games played totals since 1996:

96: 146
97: 141
98: 161
99: 129
00: 149
01: 162
02: 162
03: 161
04: 155
05: 162

Doesn't look fragile to me.
   40. karlmagnus Posted: July 24, 2006 at 07:51 PM (#2109931)
It's not A-Rod's past health it's his current performance, the Yankee fans' reaction to it and his own response that make me think he's fragile. All those errors may indicate a lessening of desire or talent, and he's so rich he may decide to pack it in when his $250mm contract's up. That's admittedly not till 2010, but there could be some real aggro if he's playing below par and soaking up $25mm of Yankee payroll in 2009-10.

You could be right, of course; only time will tell.
   41. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 24, 2006 at 08:03 PM (#2109954)
Since Manny plays the easier-on-the-body outfield and A-Rod plays the more demanding "hot corner," karlmagnus may have a point for the future. Eventually, all of those games at short and third will take their toll, if not on his durability, but most likely on his hitting.
   42. Sean Gilman Posted: July 24, 2006 at 08:21 PM (#2109981)
The Yankee fans' reaction to Rodriguez this year is a classic example of blaming the team's best player for the whole team's underperformance. He had the same problem in Texas, that contract makes him a target. There's no reason to think that makes him "fragile".

It's certainly possible that he'll experience a precipitous decline. There's no precedent for the kind of hitter he's been for as long as he has at the positions he's played at (except Honus Wagner, I guess). We really have no idea how he'll age.
   43. rico vanian Posted: July 24, 2006 at 08:42 PM (#2110018)
A-Rod has encountered trouble this year for several reasons:

a)- He has NOT performed in the clutch. There was an article in one of the major NY papers earlier this month showing he has hit under 200 in late inning pressure situations. It seems (and I watch alot of Yankee games) that he gets most of his power hits when the team is up or down by several runs. In fact, it is now called "A-Rod" time in NY when the Yankees are up or down by 5 or more runs. He has hit into an awful lot of double plays and struck out in many crucial opportunities this year. He also killed the Yankees last hope in the play-offs last year by failing in the ninth inning. After failing vs the Angels last October, his mother came out in the newspapers and said that A-Rod was depressed because of a death in his family. Compare that to Rivera pitching in 2003 after losing members of his family or O'Neil and Brocious in 1999 performing well in the World Series after losing their fathers.

b)- The salary. despite the fact that the Texas Rangers are paying a large part of A-Rod's salary, that $252 million paints an awfully big target.

c)- His demeanor. He makes everything look easy (Joe DiMaggio syndrome). Obviously, he works his arse off, but he's so smooth that it doesn't play well to the masses.

d)- The media. At this point, he's "the target".

e)- What have you done for me?- A-Rod will not be accepted until the Yankees win it all and he plays a BIG part in it. Other high profile players (Clemens and Tino Martinez for example) played key parts on WS winning teams virtually immediately. Clemen's was EXTREMELY unpopular when he came to the Yankees and Tino replaced Donnie Baseball.

f) He's not Derek Jeter. Jeter could set a fire in an orphanage and he would be forgiven. A-Rod could rescue every kid in the fire and still be blamed for not getting all their toys out.

There's alot of talk about the Yankees moving A-Rod out. That would be a shame, because the guy is still an awesome talent. However, he really has to "suck it up", keep his mouth shut and play better.

NYC- It's not for the weak.
   44. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:00 PM (#2110063)
f) He's not Derek Jeter. Jeter could set a fire in an orphanage and he would be forgiven. A-Rod could rescue every kid in the fire and still be blamed for not getting all their toys out.

I think BaseballProspectus (in the book as I recall) compared the personalities of these two guys. They said Jeter would be the kind of guy who would walk back to the dugout after his third strikeout of the day and smugly say "That pitcher's got nothing today." whereas A-Rod could lash three balls into the gap for extra bases and when he got back to the dugout he's sheepishly ask "How's my swing?".

As far as clutch goes, I still remember that double to the gap against Joe Nathan that sunk the Twins in 2004. I think its sounding similar to when the media helped the Dodgers chase Piazza out of town.
   45. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:08 PM (#2110076)
There's alot of talk about the Yankees moving A-Rod out. That would be a shame...

Or not, depending on whether you dislike the Yankees or like the team he ends up on. Soriano for A-Rod!!!!!! : )
   46. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:14 PM (#2110090)
Dr. Chaleeko (# 37):

Very interesting thoughts. However, I think I might temper them with a couple of additional thoughts:

1) I question how much accurate data you're gleaning from watching a couple of snippets of archival video of guys' swings, versus actually having seen them (live or on TV) in multiple PAs. I think you may be reading more into that than is actually to be found.

2) I never saw J. Robinson or DiMaggio except in the same snippets of video that you have, but I watched Mays a ton, and Aaron and Clemente a fair amount. While I do agree that there has been an evolution in the normative hitting approach across the league over the past 30-40 years, you're hugely overstating it, as tested against my (admittedly unscientific and subjective) observation.

3) The biggest difference I've noticed between the hitting & pitching styles of now vs. then isn't in batters' swings nearly so much as it is in their placement in the box, i.e. they typically crowd the plate today, whereas in the past only a few rare guys like F. Robinson did. Whether they've taken the initiative to do so, or whether they've taken advantage of the fact that pitchers face sanctions they never used to face for pitching inside, what has occurred is pitchers pitching to the inside portion of the plate, or inside the plate, far less readily than before.

4) Thus what I've noticed is modern hitters "diving" across the plate to hit the outside pitch far *MORE* readily than they used to, not less.
   47. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:26 PM (#2110115)
Compare that to Rivera pitching in 2003 after losing members of his family

That was in 2004...
   48. Sean Gilman Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:46 PM (#2110155)
a)- He has NOT performed in the clutch. There was an article in one of the major NY papers earlier this month showing he has hit under 200 in late inning pressure situations

He has NOT performed in the clutch so far THIS YEAR in 55 ABs (close and late via espn.com).

Over the last 3 years, close and late he's hit .276/.392/.553 in 298 at bats vs. a total line of .302/.398/.574 in 1813 at bats. That's about what you'd expect, isn't it? Fewer hits, more walks, more power.

He's had two bad series in his postseason career, in the 2000 ALDS (after which he carried the Mariners in the LCS) and last year against the Angels.
   49. jingoist Posted: July 24, 2006 at 11:55 PM (#2110349)
A-Rods a great player but don't hijack Hammerin Hanks thread with Yankee psycho-babble.

Was lucky enough to see Mr Aaron his whole career.

Hank didn't have Clemente's arm but was a better fielder earlier in his career than Roberto.

Didn't display the 5 cardinal skills of baseball like Willie Mays but was a "smooth operator" when it came to hitting or fielding. Whoever mentioned his wrists was right on; best wrists ever. If I recall correctly Ted williams was envious of Hank's wrist speed and strength.

I remember the Pirates feared Matthews and Aaron equally during most of the 50's; Joe Adcock was the other guy who drove the Bucs nuts.
Great team those Braves had in the late 50's fun to watch.
You had 4 HoFer's (3 HoMer's) on the 57 team, plus 4 or 5 really good players in Crandal, Covington, Adcock, Burdette and Buhl.

Aaron and Robinson unanimous #'s 1 and 2!
   50. OCF Posted: July 24, 2006 at 11:59 PM (#2110363)
Given what you know about Henry Aaron and his marvelous wrists, how quick would you be to tell some kid who was batting cross-handed that he was doing it all wrong?
   51. sunnyday2 Posted: July 25, 2006 at 02:35 AM (#2110963)
There was talk recently about the Twins not winning as much as they should have in the '60s because they didn't surround their nucleus with adequate supporting talent.

But per #49, what about them Braves? That was awesome front line talent, but they didn't get enough talent out there with them.
   52. DavidFoss Posted: July 25, 2006 at 02:40 AM (#2110980)
But per #49, what about them Braves? That was awesome front line talent, but they didn't get enough talent out there with them.

In Bill James' book on baseball managers he does mention the fact the Twins not winning as much as they did, but he showcases the late-50s/early-60s Braves in this regard. He had an extended write-up on the 1959 Braves and Fred Haney and how they should have won the pennant by a mile with that talent.
   53. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: July 25, 2006 at 03:23 AM (#2111056)
IIRC, the Dodgers murderalized lefties, and the Braves' best pitcher was, of course, southpaw Warren Spahn. I know the Braves had Spahn avoid the Dodgers for years. In '59, he faced them repeatedly and went 0-5 with an ERA over 6.00.
   54. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 25, 2006 at 03:51 AM (#2111084)
Here's a good question...

Musial or Aaron? They're pretty similar statistically; Musial got on base more, Aaron hit for more power. Musial was more prolific in terms of leading the league and had a higher peak in general, but Aaron has a bit more career. And Bad Henry was better on the basepaths (and I'm guessing on the field too).
   55. Jeff K. Posted: July 25, 2006 at 04:23 AM (#2111123)
The Hammer holds two records more important then "755".

One - most lifetime RBI


Most RBI as more important than most homers? I violently disagree.

Most RBI as better indicator of performance than most homers? I strongly disagree.
   56. OCF Posted: July 25, 2006 at 04:52 AM (#2111160)
Musial or Aaron?

In my offensive system, I have the two as close to tied as could be imagined at that high a level, with the edge to Musial on peak. And I have already discounted Musial some for the WWII competition level, and I haven't assigned him any value for his missing 1945 season.

Defense? Aaron was all outfielder, while Musial played the plurality of his games at 1B - but I'm inclined to think that when Musial was an outfielder, he was a very fine one (and did play some of it in CF).

Aaron's SB have already been accounted for in the system I use - no need to add them on. And as many doubles and triples as Musial hit, I can't imagine that he was too timid to take an extra base on someone else's hit.

The big deal is the strength of the NL. Aaron played his entire career in the era of integration; indeed, he was one of the defining faces of that era. Musial played for many years in that same integrated league, but all of his greatest years came before integration had much impact.

So if I shave a little off of Musial's peak because of the lesser competition he faced them, but go ahead and give him some credit for 1945, I arrive at ....

Man, it's a tough call.

This is also a possible shocker for the less historically-astute fan. Musial's fame has slipped so far that not that many remember him as someone that we could be making this kind of comparison to Henry Aaron, of all people. (And yes, I'm talking to any current Cardinal fans who think that Pujols is already the greatest Cardinal - he's got a long, long ways to go.)
   57. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 25, 2006 at 05:53 AM (#2111217)
"(And yes, I'm talking to any current Cardinal fans who think that Pujols is already the greatest Cardinal - he's got a long, long ways to go.) - To reach Rogers Hornsby then he can approach Musial.

Jeff K.,

I thought the above post that you mention could also mean to OTHER Important records, instead of two more-important records. That is how I took it, but I would agree that RBI aren't as important as HR.
   58. baudib Posted: July 25, 2006 at 07:21 AM (#2111234)
1. Aaron was sometimes called the "Black DiMaggio" as a compliment, noting his smooth efficiency in the field and at the plate.

2. What do you make of the fact that Aaron did not do well in MVP votes? OF course he should have won more, which is true of most great players. You can easily argue that Mantle, Mays, Schmidt, Morgan, Musial and others deserved 5-8 MVPs. In what was probably Aaron's greatest season, 1959, he hit .355, 39 homers, 223 hits, 400 total bases(a mind-boggling total for the era 1939-1992), 123 RBIs. Yes, his team suffered a titanic meltdown, but his teammate, Eddie Mathews, finished third with a clearly inferior year, while Ernie Banks won the award playing for a sixth-place team.
   59. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 25, 2006 at 08:42 AM (#2111246)
Well, Mays had a pretty good stranglehold on teh NL MVP so Aaron probably didn't deserve too many more. This doesn't reflect badly on Aaron, however. Not being Mays only means you aren't one of the top five players ever so Hank will have to settle for top 10.
   60. baudib Posted: July 25, 2006 at 10:16 AM (#2111250)
Except Mays only won two.
   61. baudib Posted: July 25, 2006 at 11:52 AM (#2111263)
I'm not sure why the HR record is deemed much more important than the RBI record. I guess more people are aware of the HR record and it looms much larger in the public's mind, but really THE record in sports is the single-season home run record, much more so than the career record. As for sheer value and in numbering Aaron among the all-time greats, the RBI record is probably more impressive.
   62. Chris Cobb Posted: July 25, 2006 at 12:51 PM (#2111301)
The importance of the home run record lies less in its on-the-field value, (though the home-run record is certainly the mark of a great hitter, the total bases record is a fuller reflection of Aaron's hitting prowess) than in its historical impact. The career home run record WAS as or more important than the single season home run record when Aaron broke it, because BABE RUTH held it. Aaron's eclipsing of Ruth's record is a testament not only to his ability as a ballplayer but to his character as a human being. He was subjected to a terrible outpouring of racist hatred at the time, the worst a player had experienced since Jackie Robinson integrated the majors, and to what was, for that time, a tremendous amount of media scrutiny. He bore it all with dignity and without letting it affect his play, to the extent that the magnitude of the harrassment was not fully known until after he had broken the record.

It is the public context in which he chased, caught, and passed Ruth that makes the home run record so much more significant than his total base and rbi records, which (for the most part) nobody noticed him setting.
   63. Dizzypaco Posted: July 25, 2006 at 05:32 PM (#2111579)
Breaking the homerun record was especially astonishing because people thought it was an unbreakable record - until Aaron and Mays came along, no one was within a mile of Ruth. Its the same reason Ripken got so much coverage for beating Gehrig's streak.

He was subjected to a terrible outpouring of racist hatred at the time, the worst a player had experienced since Jackie Robinson integrated the majors,


I read somewhere that this is something of a myth - that Aaron was subject to racism, but not like it was the worst since Jackie Robinson. A little like the myth of what Roger Maris went through in '61, although of course racism wasn't involved. I'm not saying I believe it, I'm just curious whether anyone else had heard this.
   64. baudib Posted: July 25, 2006 at 06:04 PM (#2111617)
It was apparently a lot worse than what Jackie went through. Aaron was getting mailbags full of death threats constantly.
   65. OCF Posted: July 25, 2006 at 06:14 PM (#2111629)
Musial, of course, did much better than Aaron in the MVP vote. But part of that is that he had less competition.

Aaron had several things working against him in the MVP vote. One is his phenomenal year-to-year steadiness. The writers are hungry for stories, and "Aaron has another one of his usual years" isn't much of a story. The sudden emergence of Banks as a big home run hitter was a good story. Another is his self-effacing personality; there are very few good stories based on anything Aaron said. Both Mays and Robinson had personalities (completely different from each other) that would attract more attention. Same with Banks. And the third factor is that the Braves, with all that talent - with all that obvious front-line talent - didn't dominate the league like they should have. MVP votes draw in part on the success of the team, and there just wasn't quite enough to go around.
   66. Dizzypaco Posted: July 25, 2006 at 07:03 PM (#2111691)
OCF is correct. If you look at the NL MVPs from 1955 to 1971 (most of Aaron's career), two things jump out:

First, once they gave an MVP to a player, they almost never game him another. Only Ernie Banks won two between 55 and 71.

Second, playing for the winning team counted for a lot - there were a few cases where they gave it to the player perceived as being the best player on the winning team, even if there was someone else clearly better in the league (1960, 1964).
   67. Boots Day Posted: July 25, 2006 at 07:24 PM (#2111713)
Aaron was getting mailbags full of death threats constantly.

I suspect this has been a little overblown. For one thing, this treatment didn't really start until around 1973, when Aaron was closing in on the record. There's a big difference between racists attacking an established superstar and racists attacking an untried rookie.

And while there's no doubt he got death threats, "mailbags full" is an exaggeration. Were there really thousands of hardcore racists with nothing better to do than write threatening letters to Hank Aaron?
   68. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:03 AM (#2112752)
Unfortuantely Boots, there probably are. You would be surprised how little these people actually have to do.
   69. sunnyday2 Posted: July 26, 2006 at 11:21 AM (#2112768)
I like Musial over Aaron but of course they're close, both being probably top dozen offensive players of all-time.

I think Aaron probably did about as well in MVP voting as he should. Yes, he was great and steady and all of that, but the NL was just plain loaded throughout the period, and Mays was almost always better.
   70. Howie Menckel Posted: July 26, 2006 at 12:46 PM (#2112787)
Dizzypaco and Boots,
I understand your being incredulous, but this is exactly why Aaron has saved those hateful letters from the 1970s to this very day. He knew that in just a few decades, people might find it unbelievable. Meanwhile, the calm way in which he has talked about the letters, while maintaining his dignity, is remarkable.

Some published reports had Aaron getting 3,000 letters a DAY from the summer of 1973 until he broke the record 8 months later.

An anecdote: I'm sitting on my front porch, age 11, in probably March 1973.
My buddies and I are talking about Aaron and if he would break the record this coming year or next. One of the guys says, "I can absolutely guarantee he'll never break the Babe's record."
We were amazed at his certitude. Asked how he knew, this 12-yr-old boy said, "Because if he ever gets to 713, I'll bring a rifle to the game and shoot the [worst word imaginable] myself."

This is in the NY area, not in Mississippi or Alabama. Nobody in my family had ever used that word, and I'd barely ever heard it anywhere. The comment sent a chill up my spine.
But that was a slice of America, 1973.

I'm pleased, in a way, that in only 30-35 years this all seems so impossible to you.

But I can tell you most firmly that anyone who minimizes what Aaron went through is wrong on a most spectacular level. To say that it is less than what Jackie Robinson went through, you can say that.
Yet to say that to make what Aaron handled seem not so rough, well, don't ever make that mistake.
   71. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 26, 2006 at 12:57 PM (#2112795)
Unfortuantely Boots, there probably are. You would be surprised how little these people actually have to do.

Sure, after all, how can you work a job when you espoue hatred for a third of the people you work with?
   72. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: July 26, 2006 at 12:58 PM (#2112796)
I remember hearing once that when Aaron first came up, he held the bat left-hand-over-right. Anyone know anything about this? it feels incredibly awkward.
   73. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 12:59 PM (#2112798)
I understand your being incredulous, but this is exactly why Aaron has saved those hateful letters from the 1970s to this very day. He knew that in just a few decades, people might find it unbelievable.

Eisenhower did the same thing by filming the concentration camps in '45, so nobody could say the Holocaust never happened. Of course, there are still deniers (BTW, I don't think Dizzy and Boots are in this category.)
   74. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:15 PM (#2112810)
Unfortuantely Boots, there probably are. You would be surprised how little these people actually have to do.

I should also point out here, that this also seems true in terms of the information supplied by the Southern Poverty Law Center in its monthly Intelligence Report on hate, hate crimes, and similar awfulness. It seems from their reports that hate-based gangs are a full-time or near full-time occupation for their membership. They don't have much else to do than hate I suppose.

This is probably a gross over-exaggeration, but my impression of (potentially) violent racism has always been that its practicioners tend to have less education than the general populace, may have done hard time (prisons are a key recruitment area for white supremecist gangs), and were probably in the lower or lowest economic strata in their community with little skills or training to help them find work. Again, that could be a gross inaccuracy, but it's my impression. If true, they may literally have nothing to do being unemployable and located in areas without employment opportunities.
   75. TomH Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:21 PM (#2112820)
Aaron and the MVP award: Hank won only one, and finished 3rd lots of other times.

Posted on http://www.philbirnbaum.com/, August 04 issue of By The Numbers, is a study I made about predicting the award ysing year-end stats and team finish. Aaron could cetinaly have been voted MVP in 1959 and 1963 and 1971 as well, but in 59 teammate Mathews split the vote with him, and their close loss to the Dodgers probably didn't help. In 1971 Joe Torre got tons of credit for helping the Cards contend, as did Dick Groat in 63 (and there was this Koufax guy....).

In short, Hank could have won more MVPs, but he didn't get hosed any more than other superstars like Mays and Williams.
   76. TomH Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:25 PM (#2112823)
w.r.t to the home run and RBI record: as the game changes, the ability of players to hit home runs changes much more dramatically than the ability to drive runs in, score them, or accumulate total bases. Which is why Cobb could get 2000ish RBI. Hence, across time, I view the runs and RBI and TB records as more important gauges than counting home runs. Of course there are big cavetas with all of them.
   77. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:41 PM (#2112831)
I understand your being incredulous, but this is exactly why Aaron has saved those hateful letters from the 1970s to this very day. He knew that in just a few decades, people might find it unbelievable. Meanwhile, the calm way in which he has talked about the letters, while maintaining his dignity, is remarkable.

Some published reports had Aaron getting 3,000 letters a DAY from the summer of 1973 until he broke the record 8 months later.

Eisenhower did the same thing by filming the concentration camps in '45, so nobody could say the Holocaust never happened. Of course, there are still deniers (BTW, I don't think Dizzy and Boots are in this category.)


Thanks for the vote of confidence John. I might disappoint you, but I'm skeptical that Aaron recieved 720,000 death threats from the summer of 1973 until he broke the record, and I'm skeptical that he kept 720,000 letters. I have no doubt that he received a few death threats, which he kept, and I have no doubt that he received some very hateful mail, but I'd be surprised if it was 3,000 letters per day of hateful mail. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are exaggerating the extent of it, and no one will challenge them for fear of being labeled a racist. I know I could be wrong, and I'm sorry if people thinks this makes me the equivalent of a Holocaust denier, but my skepticism stands.
   78. sunnyday2 Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:43 PM (#2112834)
>It seems from their reports that hate-based gangs are a full-time or near full-time occupation for their membership.

Unfortunately that report is probably out of date. I understand now that lots of these folks have found work in the U.S. military.
   79. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:52 PM (#2112841)
Unfortunately that report is probably out of date. I understand now that lots of these folks have found work in the U.S. military.

I know, politics is not kosher in the HOM threads, but PRIMEY, if not for my agreement, then at least for the punchy delivery!
   80. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:55 PM (#2112845)
I understand your being incredulous, but this is exactly why Aaron has saved those hateful letters from the 1970s to this very day. He knew that in just a few decades, people might find it unbelievable.

Eisenhower did the same thing by filming the concentration camps in '45, so nobody could say the Holocaust never happened.


Ike did even better than that. On April 20, 1945, less than three weeks before V-E Day, and with the allies sweeping through Germany and encountering corpses in every concentration camp along the way, he sent a cablegram to General George Marshall, which read:

"WE ARE CONSTANTLY FINDING GERMAN CAMPS IN WHICH THEY HAVE PLACED POLITICAL PRISONERS WHERE UNSPEAKABLE CONDITIONS EXIST. FROM MY OWN PERSONAL OBSERVATION, I CAN STATE UNEQUIVOCALLY THAT ALL WRITTEN STATEMENTS UP TO NOW DO NOT PAINT THE FULL HORRORS.

IN VIEW OF THESE FACTS, YOU MAY THINK IT ADVISABLE TO INVITE ABOUT 12 CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS AND 12 LEADING EDITORS TO SEE THESE CAMPS. IF SO, I SHALL BE GLAD TO TAKE THESE GROUPS TO ONE OF THESE CAMPS. SUCH A VISIT WILL SHOW THEM WITHOUT ANY TRACE OF DOUBT THE FULL EVIDENCE OF THE CRUELTY PARACTICED BY THE NAZIS IN SUCH PLACES AS NORMAL PROCEDURE.

A SIMILAR INVITATION IS BEING SENT TO SIMILAR REPRESENTATIVE BRITISH GROUPS."


While the group visited but two camps--Camp Dora at Nordhausen, and Dachau--and while the slim 16 page congressional report only gave a brief outline of the overall conditions, it's to Eisenhower's everlasting credit that he instinctively realized that it was imperative to get blue ribbon witnesses before the bodies had been removed and the revisionist histories began to be written.

What Aaron did in saving that hate mail was equally foresighted. Comparing what he went through with Jackie Robinson's travails is utterly beside the point.

I've never seen Aaron swing a bat live. But last year, I saw a brief clip of him at the plate that was shot from behind the batter's box. At the time, I was astounded by his swing! He literally lunged at the ball. As a 31 year old reared on 1990s baseball swings, I simply couldn't believe it. Aaron lunged, which meant that he had less time and more inertial energy moving against his ability to fully rotate his hips through the hitting zone, making the strength of his wrists and arms paramount.

I marveled, but I didn't think much of it until this month when I was in KC for the Jerry Malloy conference. A fellow showed a video that included Jackie Robinson's full swing. Just like Aaron, He lunged. So I thought back on other pictures and videos I'd seen of swings. I remember Joe D being the same, and so too Roberto Clemente. Probably Willie Mays too. Again, I was dumbstuck. How could these guys generate power on any pitch that wasn't out over the plate or on the outer half?


If any of you ever have a chance to catch it, there are full-game videos available for the last two games of the 1952 World Series, and what struck me is the way nearly every batter (and I can't remember any exceptions, though there must have been a few) had a pronounced hitch in his swing. And I don't think you can term two full games a case of "isolated snippets." I'm not really sure what to make of it, since there were obviously some great hitters on display, but like Dr. Chaleeko, I'm at a loss to reconcile the habit with some of the results.
   81. Traderdave Posted: July 26, 2006 at 01:56 PM (#2112848)
There was a baseball exhibit at the Oakland museum last winter which displayed, among mnay other things, a couple of those death threat letters. The "authors" were semi-literate at best.
   82. Kyle S Posted: July 26, 2006 at 02:07 PM (#2112861)
Thanks for the vote of confidence John. I might disappoint you, but I'm skeptical that Aaron recieved 720,000 death threats from the summer of 1973 until he broke the record, and I'm skeptical that he kept 720,000 letters. I have no doubt that he received a few death threats, which he kept, and I have no doubt that he received some very hateful mail, but I'd be surprised if it was 3,000 letters per day of hateful mail. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are exaggerating the extent of it, and no one will challenge them for fear of being labeled a racist. I know I could be wrong, and I'm sorry if people thinks this makes me the equivalent of a Holocaust denier, but my skepticism stands.

Aaron didn't get 3,000 death threats a day; he got a lot of mail, probably peaking at 3,000 pieces some days. I'm sure most of them were letters from Little Jimmy from Milledgeville, GA that said "Gee willikers, Hank, you're terrific! You can do it!" Unfortunately, many of them contained sentiments such as Howie heard. These, Hank has saved.

I guess I just don't understand your quibbling. To go back to the "holocaust denier" metaphor, I believe there are some who still rabidly contest the extent of the holocaust and argue that "only", say, five million Jews were murdered, as opposed to eight million, as if the exact numbers makes any difference. Many, many people hated Hank Aaron because of his race; frequently, they told him this. What difference does it make exactly how many letters he got?
   83. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 26, 2006 at 02:26 PM (#2112887)
There's also this other question about Aaron's chase...if he were white, couldn't he have still expected quite a lot of ill-feeling from the same folks who didn't like Roger Maris getting to 61? I don't mean to diminish what happened to Aaron, but only to say that the race issue was merely compounding what must have already been a super-charged situation (for baseball).
   84. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 02:34 PM (#2112895)
I guess I just don't understand your quibbling.

I know it sounds like quibbling, but the general issue I was addressing was the original statement that what Aaron went through was worse than what any ballplayer had to face since Jackie Robinson broke in. I don't know if that's true.

Aaron recieved death threats - that's horrible, no matter how many he got. But it makes a difference in characterizing the period whether he got four or four thousand. It makes a difference if 5% of his mail was racist, or 45%, or 85%. It does not make one a Holocaust denier to say that five million Jews died, but it does if you say the number is five thousand.

By the way John, I admire your stance that the HOM debate should be free of politics and other matters, and keep to the merits of the players at hand - I'm sorry the debate left the playing field, so to speak. But there were characterizations being made that I thought should be questioned.
   85. sunnyday2 Posted: July 26, 2006 at 02:48 PM (#2112912)
I guess if the quibble is merely whether Aaron suffered the worst racism since Jackie Robinson, I would agree that we don't know that to be true. Dick Allen had some problems as I understand it.
   86. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 26, 2006 at 03:05 PM (#2112930)
There's also this other question about Aaron's chase...if he were white, couldn't he have still expected quite a lot of ill-feeling from the same folks who didn't like Roger Maris getting to 61? I don't mean to diminish what happened to Aaron, but only to say that the race issue was merely compounding what must have already been a super-charged situation (for baseball).

There would still have been some of that, but much of the grief against Maris stemmed from (a) the fact that he was playing in an expansion season; (b) that he had 162 games instead of 154 in his season; and (3)he wasn't seen as a "proper" challenger, unlike Mantle. The fact that he hit .269 while getting those 61 home runs didn't help any.

But whatever you think about any of those points, none of them could have been applied legitimately to Aaron. The only analogous argument was the fact that he had a much lower home run rate than Ruth, but while this was indeed a point which was brought up at the time, it was always hard to figure out its relevance to a career statistic, which is supposed to reflect endurance and consistency, not necessarily "quality." I think most of these people would have said the same thing about any player, black or white, who would have approached 714. Seeing a modern player pass Ruth, without that player also being a "Ruthian" figure like Mantle (or maybe Mays, but he didn't produce those tape measure jobs), was just too bitter a pill for many of the writers and fans of Aaron's era to swallow.
   87. TomH Posted: July 26, 2006 at 03:21 PM (#2112949)
insert standard line about N.Y. media here....
   88. sunnyday2 Posted: July 26, 2006 at 03:42 PM (#2112978)
I was there and I don't remember the expansion being mentioned as a black mark against Maris' record. MLB was loath to admit the product was watered down and the media was still generally in a see-no-evil mode and a cozy relationship with MLB/teams/owners.

The other two factors are real.
   89. OCF Posted: July 26, 2006 at 04:19 PM (#2113033)
NL MVPs from 1955 to 1971 ... Second, playing for the winning team counted for a lot -

A particularly egregious intersection of "winning team" with "new, big, different story" was the MVP given to Wills in 1962. If we're doing that one over, I'd vote for Robinson.
   90. DL from MN Posted: July 26, 2006 at 04:34 PM (#2113069)
Read his autobiography, there's a whole chapter on the death threats with some printed. Hank Aaron integrated the South Atlantic League and played for the Atlanta Braves when he was getting the most attention. In contrast, Jackie Robinson was sent to the minors in a foreign country and played in New York and LA. I won't say Jackie had it easier but Hank Aaron deserves a ton of credit for his dignity in the face of tremendous racism.

Don't feel too smug about 35 years later. Barry Bonds received hundreds of death threats (enough to get FBI attention) during his chase of 70 HR.
   91. Jeff K. Posted: July 26, 2006 at 04:44 PM (#2113094)
I remember hearing once that when Aaron first came up, he held the bat left-hand-over-right. Anyone know anything about this? it feels incredibly awkward.

I don't remember if he was still doing this when he came up, but yes, he did do this for a long time.

And yes, it's ridiculously awkward. I can't fathom how someone could hit that way.
   92. DavidFoss Posted: July 26, 2006 at 04:50 PM (#2113104)
Hank Aaron integrated the South Atlantic League

I've also read that racism was especially a problem in the minor leagues with its smaller towns/cities and cheaper travel/accomodations. Reggie Jackson was from Pennsylvania and went to college in Arizona and he said his final year in the minors for Birmingham in the Southern League was not the best of experiences.
   93. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 04:57 PM (#2113115)
I know I could be wrong, and I'm sorry if people thinks this makes me the equivalent of a Holocaust denier, but my skepticism stands.

Let me more emphatic: I know that you and Boots are not in this camp. It wasn't my intention to link you with Holocaust deniers. My intention was to point out that Aaron and Eisenhower made it a point to archive what happened, that's all.
   94. yest Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:03 PM (#2113122)
Don't feel too smug about 35 years later. Barry Bonds received hundreds of death threats (enough to get FBI attention) during his chase of 70 HR.

not that I condone the letters to Bonds but I think that has more to do with his personality then his race
   95. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:04 PM (#2113127)
By the way John, I admire your stance that the HOM debate should be free of politics and other matters, and keep to the merits of the players at hand - I'm sorry the debate left the playing field, so to speak. But there were characterizations being made that I thought should be questioned.

I didn't have a problem with the tone, Dizzy. What happened during Aaron's home run chase was an important part of his career and should be mentioned and analyzed.

Now, if you somehow brough Bush or Kerry (depending on your politics) into the conversation, then I would might have held up the "Caution" sign. :-)
   96. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:08 PM (#2113133)
not that I condone the letters to Bonds but I think that has more to do with his personality then his race

I mostly agree, yest. If Bonds was more personable and didn't have the steroid cloud hanging over him, I don't think he would have received anywhere near the level of hate that he has received. But there would still be some yahoos giving him hell due to his skin color.
   97. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:12 PM (#2113142)
Andy:

Thanks for the history lesson. Being a history nut, I think I like those posts as much as I do the ones concerning baseball. :-)
   98. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:17 PM (#2113151)
This is a guess on my part, but I would imagine that the reception that Barry Bonds gets at visiting ball parks these days is more universally hostile than the one that Aaron got in 1973 and 1974, not that there aren't good reasons for it if its true. It would be fascinating to look at videotapes from the games Aaron played on the road during that period to hear the mix of boos/cheers he received at that time.
   99. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:31 PM (#2113185)
This is a guess on my part, but I would imagine that the reception that Barry Bonds gets at visiting ball parks these days is more universally hostile than the one that Aaron got in 1973 and 1974, not that there aren't good reasons for it if its true. It would be fascinating to look at videotapes from the games Aaron played on the road during that period to hear the mix of boos/cheers he received at that time.

I didn't see Aaron that often other than on TV, but I don't recall any general booing of him during his chase of Ruth, in any park. Those haters were 100% anonymous. In that sense, what Robinson underwent on the field was much worse than anything Aaron had to put up with. There weren't any Ben Chapmans in opposing dugouts in 1973-74.
   100. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:43 PM (#2113213)
I didn't see Aaron that often other than on TV, but I don't recall any general booing of him during his chase of Ruth, in any park. Those haters were 100% anonymous. In that sense, what Robinson underwent on the field was much worse than anything Aaron had to put up with. There weren't any Ben Chapmans in opposing dugouts in 1973-74.

I think by the Seventies that hate of that kind was more or less covert. I remember kids and adults who would say some terrible things, but only for certain audiences. I don't think that was the case in '47.
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