Commentary: ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ Aaron fought as strongly for civil rights as he did for an additional base | Visitor columns

“They told me that no one had the right to go where I was going. There is no way to measure the impact of these letters on me, but I like to think that each of them added another home run to my total. “

Aaron, a Hall of Famer, had talked endlessly about the stress of chasing records on him and his family. But the remarks he once made about his earliest days in baseball moved me the most.

Aaron was raised in poverty in Mobile, Alabama, in a house with no electricity or a bathroom. As boys, he and his younger brother, Tommie, who also became an important leaguer, used broomsticks as bats and bottle caps as balls.

When he was 14 years old, a year after Robinson broke the baseball color line, Robinson attended Mobile and Aaron skipped school to meet his hero. Robinson advised the boy to concentrate on his education and later play baseball.

Aaron wasn’t listening. When he was 17, he signed with a team in the Negro Leagues, the Indianapolis Clowns. He was on a road trip with the team in Washington, DC when he received one of his first lessons on the ugliness of racism in a league where only the ball was white.

“We ate breakfast while we waited for the rain to stop and I can still imagine sitting with the clowns in a restaurant behind Griffith Stadium and listening to all the plates in the kitchen after dinner break, “said Aaron once.

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