November 17, 2019

The King Speaks: Hank Aaron on Today’s MLB

posted on: Thursday April 22, 2010

John Butler ’11 / Sports Editor

The observer of American sports—whether he is a seasoned sportswriter or a novice fan—will undoubtedly agree that when Hank Aaron speaks, people listen. It was no surprise, then, that Baseball’s Homerun King-turned-diagnostician of modern-day baseball’s ills made headlines last week following an interview with the Associated Press.The main thrust of Aaron’s remarks was that American baseball these days has taken an unhappy turn for the worse. And coming from Aaron, now a senior vice president with the Atlanta Braves, the ringing indictment carries some weight.The former Homerun King’s remarks ranged from hitters’ selfishness at the plate, to the ever-increasing length of ball games, to rookies with oversized egos walking into clubhouses like they are veterans.”I don’t think they understand what it all means,” said Aaron.I don’t think they understand what it all means either. Maybe I am a hopelessly nostalgic romantic. But I am nostalgic, nevertheless. Nostalgic for a time when baseball was played for baseball’s sake. When teams were gritty, players were mustachioed, salaries were low, and games were played in the afternoon sun. Nostalgic for those days when all a good ballplayer was guaranteed was $3,000 a season and sore hands.Not so anymore. Now, baseball is a means to an end. The game has no intrinsic value; it is not loved. The MLB is populated by players who are playing, not athletes who are competing. Today’s average ballplayer is not playing ball because he adores baseball. He is playing for what he can get by playing: women, money, fame, glory, the list goes on.Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that women, money, fame, and glory ought to be scorned. I am not saying that all the players of times past were angelic saints, and I am not saying that all the players of the present are diabolical sinners. I am saying that baseball is no longer an end-in-itself; for most, it has no value. And that is a tragedy.That, I believe, is what Aaron is getting at in his comments.What does it say about us that it takes someone of Aaron’s integrity to remind us of just how loony baseball is these days? For Hammerin’ Hank, playing in the MLB was not the latest dollop delivered on a silver spoon. It was the laurel wreath of a battle initiated by Jackie Robinson and waged by the likes of Aaron, Willie Mays, and others. For today’s players, the Negro League is a vestige of an ancient past. But for Aaron, who spent three seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns,

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