Hank Aaron - Played In Negro League And Major League
Played in Negro League and Major League
On November 20, 1951, 18-year-old Aaron was signed by scout Ed Scott to play shortstop for the Negro League team the Indianapolis Clowns. Leaving home for the first time, he relocated to the Midwest, where he helped the Clowns to a 1952 Negro League World Series victory. Yet Aaron was with the Negro League for only about six months before he received two telegram offers from major league teams—one from the San Francisco Giants and one from the Milwaukee Braves. Thinking he'd have a better chance to make the team, Aaron chose the Braves over the Giants, who had star player Willie Mays.
Sold to the Milwaukee team for $10,000, Aaron signed with Braves' scout Dewey Griggs on June 14, 1952. His first assignment was to the team's farm club in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Playing second base in the farm club, Aaron was named Northern League Rookie of the Year in 1952. "[I]t wasn't too much of a transition from playing the type of baseball that we played in the Negro League to playing professional baseball," Aaron told Tavis Smiley of National Public Radio (NPR). "The difference, of course, was that instead of making $400 a month, I was making $600 a month. Instead of getting $2 a day meal money, I was getting $3 a day meal money. So it wasn't that much of a difference."
The following year Aaron played for the Braves' affiliate team in the South Atlantic League, the Jacksonville Tars. As one of the first five African Americans to play in the "Sally League," Aaron faced racial discrimination in the segregated South. He was separated from his teammates while traveling by bus, and often had to make his own arrangements for housing and meals. Despite these indignities, Aaron helped lead Jacksonville to a pennant win and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. He had led the league in everything from batting average (.362) and RBI (125) to runs (115) and hits (208).
While playing winter ball in Puerto Rico in 1953, Aaron learned to play the outfield. This new skill would come in handy the following spring, when an injury sidelined Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson. Aaron stepped in to take his place in the outfield, making his major league debut at age 20. In March 1954 he hit his first major-league home run during spring training. He made his official debut at the Braves'April 13 game against the Cincinnati Reds. Ten days later he hit his first major league home run. Aaron stopped just short of completing his first season with the Braves, breaking his ankle in early September and sitting out the rest of the year.
It did not take Aaron long to regain his footing. In 1955 he moved to right field, where he would remain for most of his career and earn three Golden Glove Awards; in batting, he averaged. 314 and hit 27 home runs. In July he played in his first All-Star Game. The following season his batting average edged up to%. 328, leading to his first of two National League batting titles. By 1957 the 23-year-old player seemed at the peak of his powers, leading the league with his batting prowess. In a game that led the Braves to a pennant win, Aaron scored a heroic home run in the eleventh inning and was carried off the field by his teammates. He went on to average.393 and hit three home runs in the 1957 World Series, helping the Braves to victory over the New York Yankees.
In October he was named the league's Most Valuable Player for the first and only time of his career.
Now a full-fledged baseball superstar, Aaron began racking up home runs. The six-foot, 180-pound player took his power not from his heft but from his strong, supple wrists and his deft swing. "I looked for one pitch my whole career, a breaking ball," he told David Hinckley of the New York Daily News. "I never worried about the fastball. They couldn't throw it by me, none of them."
In June 1959, after hitting three homers in a single game against the San Francisco Giants, Aaron was paid $30,000 to appear on the television show Home Run Derby. After this experience, which earned him nearly as much as his annual salary, Aaron altered his hitting style to bring in even more home runs. Defending this choice, he once said, "I noticed that they never had a show called 'Singles Derby,'" according to the Sporting News. In June 1962 he and teammates Eddie Matthews, Joe Adcock, and Frank Thomas became the first four players ever to hit consecutive home runs in a game.