The world of baseball lost a living legend on Friday morning when it was reported that Hall of Famer Hank Aaron passed away at the age of 86. The Los Angeles Dodgers paid tribute to Aaron’s contributions to the game of baseball on and off the field, as was their duty.
In his 23 seasons as a major league baseball player, 21 of those were spent in the National League playing for the Milwaukee and then the Atlanta Braves. Aaron tormented Dodgers pitching, whether against the Brooklyn or Los Angeles versions. Aaron carried a career slash line .302/.386/.569 with a .955 OPS.
The career home run leader when he retired, Aaron hit 95 of his 755 round-trippers against the Dodgers, the second-most against any team over his career. It is safe to say that when facing Aaron, the Dodgers had to deal with a formidable opponent as great as any individual player they’ve faced in their franchise history.
Hank vs. Sandy
If Hank Aaron was the greatest player to put on a Braves uniform, it’s likely when facing Sandy Koufax he went up against the greatest Dodger pitcher of all-time. Despite Koufax’s greatness, Aaron usually got the best of him.
In 116 at-bats, Aaron slashed .362/.431/.647 with seven home runs; he was just one of five players with 40 at-bats against Koufax who hit over .300 — although, during Koufax’s most dominant era post-1962, Aaron “only” hit .259.
Koufax’s manager, the great Walter Alston, had his own view about Aaron, saying, “More than anyone else, he’s (Hank Aaron) made me wish I wasn’t a manager.”
One of the greatest moments in baseball history was the night Hank Aaron broke the all-time record for career home runs held by Babe Ruth. In an act of serendipity, Aaron was able to do it in front of his hometown Atlanta Braves fans. The opponent who got another front row seat to greatness was the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That meant that Dodgers announcing great Vin Scully was there to capture the moment and the poignancy when Aaron hit the magical “715”.
Scully’s call went like this:
“A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” a thrilled Scully said. “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.”
The fact that the Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier when they signed Jackie Robinson to their Montreal farm club in 1945, shared Hank Aaron’s greatest moment was poetically captured by Scully’s call.
There will never be another Hank Aaron, who was as great a human being as he was a ball player, and all Dodgers fans should salute his greatness and the connections he shared with the team.