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Racism-defying Home Run king Hank Aaron dies at 86

After starting the 1952 season with the Clowns, Aaron was signed in June by the Braves, who were in their final season in Boston. They assigned him to play for their farm team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and he was named Northern League Rookie of the Year this season.

He was promoted in 1953 to play second base for the Jacksonville, Fla. Team in the South Atlantic League, or the Sally League, becoming one of the top five black players on the tour.

Now he was back in the old south.

“White people used to scream from the stands and call us alligator bait,” said Howard Bryant in “The Last Hero: A The Life of Henry Aaron” (2010). “Jacksonville wasn’t that bad. But places like Columbus and Macon, those places were mean.

Aaron led the Sally League in hitting and was voted their most valuable player. But he was a bad infielder so he learned to play the outfield on Puerto Rican winter ball and in 1954 he won a trip to spring training with the Braves, who were on their second. season in Milwaukee.

When newly acquired New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson (less than three years after his famous home run at the Polo Grounds) broke an ankle during show season, Aaron took his place.

He hit his first major league home run on April 23 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis ahead of the Cardinals’ Vic Raschi, the former Yankee. Thomson returned in July, but Aaron remained a regular until he also broke an ankle in early September. He finished with 13 homers and a .280 batting average.

Aaron became a star in 1955, reaching 0.314, and he won his first batting title the following season, at .328. When he was voted the National League’s most valuable player in 1957, he came close to winning the triple crown at bat, leading the league in homers (44) and runs scored (132) and finishing tied for third. place by hitting with an average of 0.322.

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