A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE, GREAT HENRY LOUIS AARON: See Hammerin’ Hank’s Earliest Known Game-Used Bat

By  //  January 30, 2021

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Aaron passed away January 22 at age 86

The above bat was used by Henry Aaron in a three-game series that capped the 1955 season for both the Cardinals and the Braves.  Aaron went hitless in a first game 4-2 win, pounded a double and a single in a 4-3 loss in the second game and was one for three with a two-run double in a losing effort in the third game. CLICK HERE to see how this bat survived and rediscovered in 2004. (Black and white image courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We thought it appropriate to highlight Hank Aaron’s earliest known game-used bat after his death at age 86 on January 22. Aaron, one of baseball’s greatest all-time players, held the record many years for hitting more home runs – 755 – than anyone in major league history, and will be remembered in particular for No 715, which broke Babe Ruth’s career record.


THE DISCOVERY OF ONE OF HANK’S EARLIEST ‘HAMMERS’ EXHILARATING, NOSTALGIC

WHEN WE PULLED this cracked Louisville Slugger out of the old refrigerator box in which it had been stored for five decades and saw the stamped signature, “Henry Aaron,” our hearts collectively skipped a beat.

Knowing that the Booming Bats of the 50s were all brought over to our family tavern sometime between 1953 and 1955, we realized that we might just be holding a bat from his rookie season of 1954 or possibly even a bat from the series in which he hit his first Major League home run.

Our subsequent research revealed (according to game-used bat authenticator, dealer and author of the definitive reference on the subject, Dave Bushing) that there was NO known Aaron game-used rookie bats in existence.

Much to our chagrin, our Dad’s chronicle of the Booming Bats revealed that this bat had been brought over to the Original Sports Bar by batboy Freddie Buchholz along with a broken Eddie Mathews bat during the last series between the Cardinals and Braves in September of 1955.

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Henry Aaron’s 1955 Topps baseball card. The 1955 season was a break-out season for young Aaron. A respectable rookie year in 1954 was cut short due to a late-season ankle injury, but he came back very strong in 1955, posting his first of 21 seasons as an all-star performer.

Karen Devoto, Historian at Hillerich and Bradsby (Louisville Slugger) and a very gracious Kentucky “Southern Belle” who has been extremely helpful to us in authenticating the bats, confirmed that Henry had signed his original HB contract in 1952 for model D89.

It was not until July of 1955 that he ordered this R43 model.  Nevertheless, there is a very high probability that this game-used “Hammerin’ Hank” bat is, if not the earliest, certainly one of the earliest Aaron bats in existence.

This bat was used in a three-game series that capped the 1955 season for both the Cardinals and the Braves.   He went hitless in a first game 4-2 win, pounded a double and a single in a 4-3 loss in the second game and was one for three with a two-run double in a losing effort in the third game.

His two doubles in the series tied his teammate and fellow “Boomer,” Johnny Logan, with a National League-leading 37 for the season.

The 1955 season was a break-out season for young Aaron.  A respectable rookie year was cut short due to a late-season ankle injury, but he came back very strong in 1955, posting his first of 21 seasons as an all-star performer.

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Always a fan favorite, Hank was voted “Brave of the Year” by Milwaukee fans, and for the second year in a row, Aaron, Mathews, Logan, Crandall, Pafko and Company brought over two million fans out to County Stadium breaking their own National League attendance record set in 1954.

Aaron led the team in hitting with a .314 average, was second in the National League only to Ted Kluszewski in hits with 189, and drove in 106 runs for the second-place Braves in 1955.

The most prolific home run hitter of all-time, Henry Aaron withstood tremendous pressure to break Babe Ruth’s career record. Aaron is often overlooked when baseball historians debate the best player of the 1950s and 1960s.

He was, of course, a great hitter – winning two batting titles. But Aaron was also a very good base runner and had a good arm in the outfield. During his 1957 MVP season, Aaron led the Milwaukee Braves to the pennant and eventually their only World Series title.

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Hank Aaron began his Major League career on April 13, 1954, with the Braves. He played for 23 seasons and ended his big league playing career in 1976. (2015 Topps Baseball History card)

Aaron began his Major League career on April 13, 1954, with the Braves. He played for 23 seasons and ended his big league playing career in 1976.

Aaron began his professional baseball career as an 18-year old shortstop for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro American League. A right-handed hitter, he batted cross-handed, with his right hand below his left hand.

The Boston Braves bought his contract and changed his grip. After two years in the minor leagues, Aaron became the starting left fielder for the Braves in 1954, the team’s second season in Milwaukee. He replaced the veteran Bobby Thompson, who had broken his ankle.

“Hammerin’ Hank” has earned legendary status by clubbing a Major League record 755 round-trippers over his career, and is the most prolific offensive player in Major League history, holding most career offensive records. He owns 12 Major League career records, including most games, at-bats, total bases and RBIs.

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Aaron was able to become the all-time home run champ by sustaining a remarkably consistent career. He was never hurt badly enough to be out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

He controlled his weight throughout his career, and his remarkable physical condition (sans performance-enhancing substances) allowed him to average 33 home runs a year, hitting between 24 and 45 home runs for an incredible 19 straight years.

Aaron drove in more than 100 runs 15 times — including a record 13 seasons in a row. Aaron also won two batting titles in 1956 and 1959.

He played the infield in the minors but was switched to the outfield in winter ball before his rookie season, going on to gain recognition as an outstanding fielder — winning four Gold Gloves. He earned National League MVP honors in 1957 and appeared in a record 24 all-star games: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975.

Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 with 97 percent of the vote.

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Henry Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 with 97 percent of the vote.

HENRY AARON FAST FACTS:

■ Aaron and brother Tommie rank first in homers by siblings (768). They were also the first siblings to appear in a League Championship Series together as teammates (1969).

■ Aaron combined with Eddie Mathews to hit the most homers as teammates (863); he and Mathews are the only players to hit 400 homers each as teammates (442 for Hank, 421 for Eddie).

■ Aaron and Eddie Mathews homered in the same game 75 times. That total is two more than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and ranks as the all-time record.

■ Aaron hit 385 in-home parks, 370 on the road; hit 185 homers in Milwaukee County Stadium as a Brave, 10 as a Brewer; hit 190 homers in Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.

■ Aaron hit exactly 400 solo homers (53%); 242 two-run homers (32%); 97 three-run homers (13%); 16 grand slams; hit two homers in a game 61 times (3rd, behind Babe Ruth and Willie Mays); hit three homers in a game once (6/21/1959); hit 14 extra-inning homers; one inside-the-park home run (1967); three pinch-hit home runs (1962, 1966, 1973); hit 534 homers off right-handed pitchers (71%); 221 homers off left-handed pitchers (29%); victimized 310 pitchers in 32 ballparks; hit three homers in the World Series and three more in the 1969 National League Championship Series; blasted two all-star game home runs.

■ Aaron’s Hall of Fame teammates include Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda, Hoyt Wilhelm and Robin Yount.

■ Aaron was a standout softball player in high school in Mobile Alabama, and played briefly for the Mobile Black Bears, a local Negro team, before moving on to the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League.

■ Aaron was a 150-pound all-city football guard in high school.

■ Aaron wore No. 5 in 1954 as a rookie, but switched to No. 44 in 1955. His teammates joked that the slender Aaron wasn’t big enough to wear a two-digit number.

■ Aaron developed his trademark strong, quick wrists from carrying ice as a teenager.

■ Aaron got his first hit in the majors on April 15, 1954 — a single off Cardinals pitcher Vic Raschi — and went 2-for-5 in a 7-6 win over St. Louis.

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■ Aaron hit his first major league homer on April 23, 1954, against Raschi in St. Louis.

■ Aaron broke his ankle on Sept. 5, 1954, while sliding into third base and missed the remainder of his rookie season. He finished the ’54 season with 13 dingers.

■ Aaron hit three homers in a game on July 21, 1959, against the San Francisco Giants – the only time Aaron hit three homers in a game.

■ Aaron appeared on the television show “Home Run Derby” and was paid $30,000 for his appearances —almost as much as his annual salary. The prize money encouraged Aaron to change his approach to hitting and swing for more homers. Aaron defended his decision by saying, “I noticed that they never had a show called “Singles Derby.”

■ Aaron hit what most consider to be the longest home run of his career – a 470-foot shot to the straightaway center at the Polo Grounds in New York on June 18, 1962. Only two other players ever hit a ball there – Joe Adcock in 1953 and Lou Brock, who coincidentally did it the day before Aaron.

■ Aaron was signed by the Boston Braves before the 1952 season as an amateur free agent.

■ Aaron was traded in Nov. 1974 by the Atlanta Braves to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later and Dave May. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Roger Alexander (minors) (December 2, 1974) to the Atlanta Braves to complete the trade.

■ Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama.

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