Hank Aaron combined consistency with productivity as nobody else has.
Aaron, who died Friday at age 86, was the game’s ultimate offensive force for much of his 23-year Major League career and from 1974-2007 held the title as baseball’s all-time home run leader. He topped 100 runs scored and recorded
According to legend, Mets first baseman Art Shamsky asked Aaron what it feels like to come to the ballpark every day knowing that he’ll get two hits. “I don’t know that I’ll get two hits,” Aaron replied. “What I do know is that if I don’t get them today, I’ll certainly get them tomorrow.”
Here’s a list of the top 10 performances in which Aaron fulfilled his intentions:
1. Step aside, Babe
April 8, 1974
Facing Dodgers left-hander Al Downing, Aaron unleashed his sweeping stroke at a 1-0 slider and drove it over the left-field wall at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with
2. Next stop: World Series
Sept. 23, 1957
Though the first-place Braves led St. Louis by five games with six to play, it was obvious the Cardinals wouldn’t give up easily as this opener of a three-game series extended into extra innings. With
3. Tied at the top
April 4, 1974
Having finished the 1973 season with his career total standing at 713 homers, Aaron had all winter to brood over the one he needed to tie the Babe’s record. Aaron settled the issue swiftly, lining
4. A baseball first
May 17, 1970
With a first-inning single off Wayne Simpson at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Aaron became the first player to amass 3,000 hits, as well as 500 home runs. Hall of Famer
5. A franchise player
Aug. 6, 1972
Aaron again victimized Simpson, this time at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, to hit his 660th career homer. That established a record for most homers by a player for a single franchise. (Ruth socked 659 with the Yankees.) Incidentally, that was Aaron’s first homer of the afternoon. He hit a second, off left-hander Don Gullett, to break a 10th-inning tie and lift the Braves to a 4-3 triumph. Aaron ultimately accumulated 733 homers with the Braves.
6. Never too much
Sept. 21, 1958
Taking command, Aaron drove in four runs in Milwaukee’s 6-5 victory over Cincinnati that clinched the Braves’ second consecutive National League pennant. Subduing a crowd of 27,213 at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, he belted a two-run double off Brooks Lawrence in the fifth inning before adding a two-run homer in the seventh off Tom Acker. That widened the Braves’ lead to 6-0 and proved necessary when Cincinnati scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh.
7. Three of a kind
June 21, 1959
Aaron’s lone three-homer game — each was a two-run drive — proved he could hit any type of pitching. Before a sellout crowd of 22,934 at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium, he connected in the first inning off left-hander Johnny Antonelli, the Giants’ ace. Aaron waited until the sixth inning to strike again, this time against right-hander
8. It should have been a big hit, but …
Oct. 4, 1969
The Braves confronted the New York Mets, surprise winners of the East Division, in the first NL Championship Series. Aaron celebrated the occasion by slugging a seventh-inning homer off eventual NL Cy Young Award winner and Hall of Famer
9. One more thrill
July 11, 1976
Aaron finished his career where he began it: Milwaukee. Clearly past his prime, he batted .232 with an uncharacteristic .360 slugging percentage in two seasons with the Brewers. Primarily serving as Milwaukee’s designated hitter, he added just 22 homers and 95 RBIs in 222 games to his career totals. In the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, however, Aaron reminded a County Stadium audience of 28,149 how things used to be when he drilled a one-out, 10th-inning homer off Rangers relief ace Steve Foucault to give the Brewers a 5-4 victory. The crowd rejoiced loudly as Aaron rounded the bases, grateful for one more opportunity to celebrate a legend. He hit one more home run — No. 755 of his career — before he retired at the end of the season.
10. Concealed strength
June 18, 1962
Listed at 6-foot, 180 pounds, Aaron didn’t fit a slugger’s physical stereotype. But his remarkably quick wrists enabled him to turn any pitch into a roaring line drive, and photographs indicate that he seemingly possessed an extra layer of muscle in his forearms, if that’s possible. On this Monday night against the Mets, Aaron sent a ball where few had traveled before, propelling a Jay Hook pitch into the center-field seats at the Polo Grounds. The drive traveled an estimated 470 feet. Too bad only 9,132 showed up for the Braves’ 7-1 win.