44

The Hammer

The Hammer {front} - a 1969 Hank baseball card (stored in old box of Jordans)

Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron was a central protagonist with not only the sacred statistics to warrant GOAT status, but also the highest respect of every peer he played with or against.”

I never saw The Hammer play the game of baseball in person, and perhaps that’s part of the beauty of his impact on me. In the eyes of a child growing up in this southern city, rising from the ashes, he was a god. 

I first learned about Hank Aaron from the stories of my parents and grandparents. The stories formed in me a myth, as they included natural talents, social phenomenon, and what sounded like supernatural events. I played the game of baseball as a kid and became a voracious collector of baseball cards where I learned about the history of the game and the key characters of the story.

Henry “Hank” Aaron was a central protagonist with not only the sacred statistics to warrant “GOAT” status, but also the highest respect of every peer he played with or against. As I grew older and learned more about my own southern history and how my city has played such a critical role in the fight for racial justice, I learned more of Hank’s impact and influence. What he faced and how he faced it inspired me and the myth of Hank Aaron grew even larger. 

“… but the first time I saw Hank come out of a dugout to throw the ceremonial first pitch and felt the loudest and most massive praise of the crowd, it was a religious experience. For an 8-year-old, I thought I was in the presence of someone most holy and sacred.”

I first laid my eyes upon Hank as an 8-year-old going to the cathedral of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in the mid-80s. I had seen the statue many times going into the games there, but the first time I saw Hank come out of a dugout to throw the ceremonial first pitch and felt the loudest and most massive praise of the crowd, it was a religious experience. For an 8-year-old, I thought I was in the presence of someone most holy and sacred.

Every time I have seen him since, that feeling of presence was undeniable. But what was also undeniable was the kind smile and humility that always beamed from this gentle giant. It seemed he was never comfortable with being a god, and that made him even more lovable.  

Today, in my 44th year on the earth, I’ll take my wife and children, with whom I’ve shared my stories and love of Hank, to the sacred grounds and to a beautiful statue of Hank. We will be laying down a hammer to THE Homerun King and a final thank you to 44. May his myth never die.

Long live The King. 

– Spencer Nix