'The standard of greatness': HOFers on Hank

January 22nd, 2021

Hank Aaron, Major League Baseball's former home run king and a true legend of the sport, died Friday at age 86.

It's another incalculable loss for baseball, in the wake of the recent passings of other giants like Don Sutton, Tommy Lasorda, Phil Niekro, Joe Morgan, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline.

Aaron's fellow Hall of Famers, Braves icons and baseball greats celebrated his life and legacy on Friday, with many sharing their personal memories of Aaron. Here are their tributes to Hammerin' Hank.

Willie Mays (Giants center fielder)

Chipper Jones (Braves third baseman)

On Aaron's legacy in baseball and beyond (during a Braves news conference on Friday):
"We're not only talking about a transcendent baseball player, but we're talking about a transcendent person in American history as well ... When you talk about a Black man elevating himself in that day and age to the best in the game, and embarking on a journey that would take him to the top of the home run list and passing Babe Ruth, and all that he endured, it really is amazing. He is a beautiful human."

On meeting Aaron for the first time:
"I can remember the first time I shook his hand, his hand just engulfed mine. He truly taught me that the game was played not only in your head, but from the shoulders to the wrists. And man, I was like, now I see where that bat speed came from, now I see where that strength came from. I consider myself very lucky that Hank Aaron was a part of this particular organization because he set the bar not only for what you should strive for as a baseball player, but as a human being."

On Aaron's statistical achievements:
"You look at the back of that baseball card and the print is so small because he was there for 25 years worth of stats. It's hard for me to believe they can put that many numbers on the back of a little piece of cardboard ... I'm a Hall of Famer, and I look at the back of my baseball card and the back of his, and he just about has me doubled up on every level."

"He played for the Galactic All-Stars. We're just mere Earthlings."

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Robin Yount (Brewers shortstop and Aaron's former teammate)

Ozzie Smith (Cardinals shortstop)

Frank Thomas (White Sox first baseman and DH)

"He was a rock star among rock stars," said the Hall of Famer, who grew up in Georgia. "Just a class act ... He never stopped smiling. Always said the right things. And always did the right things. He was an easy person to idolize. To this day, I idolize him as an adult. He meant so much to my family, my community and the state of Georgia."

Fergie Jenkins (Cubs and Rangers pitcher)

Johnny Bench (Reds catcher)

Dave Winfield (Padres and Yankees outfielder)

Barry Bonds (Giants outfielder)

David Ortiz (Red Sox DH)

Mariano Rivera (Yankees closer)

Derek Jeter (Yankees shortstop and current Marlins CEO)

Vladimir Guerrero (Expos and Angels outfielder)

Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers, Marlins and Tigers catcher)

Larry Walker (Expos and Rockies outfielder)

Mike Piazza (Dodgers and Mets catcher)

Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles shortstop and third baseman)

Jim Palmer (Orioles pitcher)

Barry Larkin (Reds shortstop)

Wade Boggs (Red Sox third baseman)

Dennis Eckersley (Red Sox and A's pitcher)

Bert Blyleven (Hall of Fame pitcher for five teams)

Dale Murphy (Braves outfielder)

Andruw Jones (Braves outfielder)

Deion Sanders (Braves outfielder and NFL Hall of Famer)

Vin Scully (Dodgers broadcaster)

Bob Uecker (Brewers broadcaster and Aaron's former teammate)

Remembering Aaron:
"You know what was really good? Being a teammate of his, being able to dress next to him, and then being able to do the games [on radio] when he came back to Milwaukee in the last couple of years of his career. The laughs that we had, not only then but every time I would see him now when we got together for an event and would able to be away by ourselves, away from everybody. We could go back and remember stories of things that happened. That's the good part of it. The bad part of it is there's no more stories."

"He was a great friend. We had a lot of laughs. There's a lot of stuff I can’t talk about from the days -- and nights -- with Hank. When I walked into a room he started laughing right away. It was what we did."

On meeting Aaron for the first time as a rookie in 1962:
"One day I figured, I'm going to go up and introduce myself to Henry. I was so nervous. I thought, I'm finally going to talk to him. So I said, 'Hank, I’m Bob Uecker.' And he said, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I'm on your team.' He said, 'Well, what do you do?' I told him, 'I'm a catcher.' Now, this was June or July."

Dusty Baker (Astros manager and Aaron's former teammate and friend)

MC Hammer

MC Hammer, the rapper best known for his dance moves and hits like "U Can't Touch This," got his stage name from Aaron. Hammer (whose real name is Stanley Burrell) grew up in Oakland and was a batboy for the A's, and players like Reggie Jackson and Pedro Garcia started calling him "Hammer" or "Little Hammer" because he looked like Hammerin' Hank Aaron. When Hammer started his performing career, the name stuck.