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Oct. 25 Hank Aaron Award interview

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Good afternoon, everybody. One thing about it, we have certainly used the capacity of this room beautifully, I'll say that.

JON MILLER:  Good afternoon, my name is Jon Miller. I broadcast Giants baseball. They're currently in the World Series, maybe you heard, and badly need a win here tonight. So we'll see how it turns out.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Good afternoon, everybody. One thing about it, we have certainly used the capacity of this room beautifully, I'll say that.

JON MILLER:  Good afternoon, my name is Jon Miller. I broadcast Giants baseball. They're currently in the World Series, maybe you heard, and badly need a win here tonight. So we'll see how it turns out.

We're here today for the announcement of the winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award, recognizing the most outstanding offensive performer in each league. The winners were selected through a combination of a fan vote on and a panel of Hall of Famers. Let's see if there are any really good ones on this panel. For instance, Hank Aaron is on the panel, along with Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas, and Robin Yount. Pretty good? Yeah. Pretty good, yeah.

All right. Let's introduce the dais. First of all, the Commissioner of Baseball, Mr. Bud Selig.


JON MILLER:  Also maybe you've heard of this next gentleman who one year hit .355 to win the batting title in the National League, and he hit over .300 14 times. In addition to being the home run king, but in the next year he hit in the .290s. Did you get a cut in pay that year (laughter)? That was one of the only times he failed to hit .300 in his career. One of the all time greats of the game, Hall of Famer Henry Aaron.

The National League home run king for this year from the Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton.

Also, I'd like to acknowledge Billye Aaron, the wife of Hank Aaron, who is seated right here in the first row.

Now, the Commissioner of Baseball    do you have a song, like the president?

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  If I had one, I'd pay a lot of money to hear you sing it (laughter).

JON MILLER:  All right. Here he is, the Commissioner of Baseball, Mr. Bud Selig (applause).

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Thank you, Jon, and he is one of my favorite people. I was here a month or so ago, and we did an interview during the ballgame. I think we forgot about the ballgame and had a good time, didn't we, for a couple innings?

JON MILLER:  They said it was my very best broadcast.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Well, this is 16th year that MLB has paid tribute to the remarkable career of Henry Aaron through the Henry Aaron Award. The award recognizes the most outstanding offensive performance in each league for a particular season. Hank is undeniably one of the greatest players to ever step on a baseball field. More than just talented, however, and more importantly, he acted with poise and class both on and off the field. We're fortunate because he's the quintessential representative of our game in every way, and I've often said that we've been very fortunate to have our greatest stars be as classy as they are off the field.

Obviously, Hank and I have been friends for 57 years now, I think. Boy, we're getting old, Henry. Our birthdays are only four months apart, so when I say we're getting old, we are getting old together.

I want to extend special thanks to all of the Hall of Famers who Jon talked about, who agreed to join Hank and fans in voting for this award. Their accomplishments at the plate throughout their career and their participation in this process reinforces the prestige of what is really a remarkable award.

So now I'd like to formally announce the winners of the Hank Aaron Award. First for the American League, the winner is Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mike led the Majors in runs scored this season with 115. In each of his first three full seasons, he led the American League in this category. Amazing. His 36 home runs tied him for third most in the American League, and his 111 runs batted in was most by an American League player this season.

Unfortunately, Mike could not be with us today, but we wish to congratulate him on his season, and I know Henry and I will have that opportunity to do so.

As for the National League, I'm proud to announce Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins as the winner. He led the National League with 37 home runs, captured his first career home run title this season, and led the league with a .555 slugging percentage. In addition, he posted career highs of 105 runs batted in, 94 walks, .395 on base percentage, all second best in the National League.

So sincere congratulations, Giancarlo, and I'm happy to say more important than anything else, you look great today and you say you're feeling great (applause).

JON MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. Now with the World Series going on, and I'm always reminded of the old book and a movie, "The Natural", where Roy Hobbs was asked by his woman friend, "Why do you do it, Roy? Why do you keep trying to play this game?" And he said, "Well, maybe one day I'll be walking down the street and a father will say to his son, 'Son, there goes Roy Hobbs, the greatest player to ever play this game,'" and that was fiction. In real life they say, "There goes Henry Aaron, the greatest player to ever play this game."

Thanks for coming out here, Mr. Aaron, and a few words, please.

HANK AARON:  Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Commissioner, and first, let me offer my congratulations to Carlo Stanton for one.

Second, I want to take this time to thank all of the Hall of Famers who took time out to vote for these two opponents, Mike Trout and Carlo Stanton.

You know, when Carlo came to Atlanta, I don't know whether I was the first one out on the field, but I wanted to see all of the stats and all of the things that I had heard about him. And I walked out, and sure enough he was taking batting practice, and he wasn't hitting balls 320; he was hitting them about 450 in the stands. And I said, man, my balls never went that far (laughing). Mine just barely scraped the wall.

But watching him come in here just a moment ago, and I didn't realize how big you were. That's not an insult, but I mean, all of you guys are big. You know what I mean? But really, he has tremendous size, but he can hit a ball a long ways, and I just want to congratulate you on all of your feats. I know you said 37 home runs he hit? And that was part of the year. That wasn't all year. He got hurt, I think    how many games were you out about?

GIANCARLO STANTON:  20 something.

HANK AARON:  He was out 20 something games, so we're taking this for granted.

So he had a sensational year, and I want to congratulate him and wish him just the continued best of luck in his career. He's young, what are you, 25?


HANK AARON:  Oh, I'm sorry. 24. So he's got another ten years left. So I just want to wish him the best of luck. He's a tremendous athlete, and he's good for baseball, Commissioner.

GIANCARLO STANTON:  Thank you. Thank you. Definitely I'd like to thank Bud and Hank here, first off. But just receiving this reward is a huge honor for me. Hearing the stories and watching video of Hank play and hearing from my dad the respect that he has for him, it's unbelievable to be able to represent him in this modern day and in the game. So it's huge for me, and I'll remember this for the rest of my life. So thank you.

JON MILLER:  So Giancarlo Stanton was the National League winner of the award, and Henry, did you have any words about the American League winner?

HANK AARON:  Yes: Mike Trout is someone that I think all of us knew or heard of. Last year, I guess he had one of those breakout seasons where he did everything right. And he, too, was one of the ballplayers I came to the ballpark to watch. I watched him in a three game series in Atlanta, and he did not disappoint me in anything that he did. He was hitting the ball, he played the game the way the game is supposed to be played, and I just appreciate him. I want to congratulate him. I know he would be here this evening, but he couldn't. So I will congratulate him for this award, also.

JON MILLER:  So Mike Trout of the Angels, the American League winner of the award. He could not be here, but he did make a video, sort of an acceptance speech of the Hank Aaron Award.

MIKE TROUT (via video):  Thank you for this honor. I apologize I couldn't make it out there. I want to thank the legendary Hank Aaron, the Hall of Famers and fans for selecting me on this award. I want to congratulate my fellow winner, Giancarlo Stanton. Just to be associated with Hank Aaron and all the greats in the game, oh, it means a lot to me.

I want to thank the Angels organization, my teammates, friends, family. Once again, I'm sincerely honored and humbled to accept this award. Thank you.

JON MILLER:  Mike Trout of the Angels (applause).

All right. Now we have a special presentation from the great Hall of Famer Henry Aaron.

HANK AARON:  Yes, thank you. They gave me some notes here, but I don't think I need notes to talk about my next recipient. The Commissioner and I have been friends for over 50 some years, and when I first went to Milwaukee, when I first went to Milwaukee from the Minor Leagues, I remember he was one of the first persons that I met. I met his family. I met him. And he has been the Commissioner for how many years now, Bud?


HANK AARON:  22 years. But let me tell you a little story about him: He was not only a commissioner then. He was concerned about baseball back then, even when he was a teenager. I remember going to baseball, football games with him, and he was talking about things that he would do if he got to be the Commissioner. And he had his eyes set on a big prize because he knew that he could do something to make the game a little better.

I just want to congratulate Commissioner Bud Selig for all that he has ever done for baseball. I mean, I don't think that anybody can really give him enough praise for all of the things that he has done for baseball. He's stood tall, he's done everything that all of us could ever be pleased of, and I am just so happy that I got to be his friend. He was my boss for a long time. He still is in some ways my boss. But we are still friends, and there has never been a time in the 50 some years that I've called this man up on the telephone that he didn't call me back the next day or that same day and talk about whatever it was. He has always been in charge of baseball. I know he's going to leave it in great hands.

Rob Manfred, congratulations to you, and I know baseball is going to continue to grow in a way that all of us think that baseball should grow. So congratulations to you.

I just want to say, congratulations to Bud Selig, because he's    where's my plaque I'm supposed to be giving him? Commissioner, this is for you (handing). Yes, congratulations to you.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  That's wonderful.

HANK AARON: We are so happy and so proud, and congratulations to you, Sue. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Well, you always have surprises, Jon, don't you?

JON MILLER:  Let me read the inscription.

"In honor of your dedicated and distinguished service to baseball, this honorary"    it is just an honorary award (laughter)    "Hank Aaron Award is presented to Bud Selig by your friend of more than 50 years, Hank Aaron. Your determination and love for the game, your stewardship brought baseball to unprecedented heights and a legacy as Commissioner that is unmatched." (Applause). Congratulations.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Thank you, Henry, Billye. A lot of things happen to you in a long career, and a lot of really wonderful things. But I meant what I said earlier, Henry is right. We met many, many years ago, did a lot of things together. Went to football games. The poor fellas, Cleveland Browns could never beat the Packers and he grumbled and moaned and complained and bitched and whined, but it didn't help it anyway, Jim Brown notwithstanding.

But I meant what I said over and over again, we are, as you all hear me say often, a social institution. And here is a man    and I say this because I think it's the greatest compliment, he's still the same nice person, decent, sensitive person today that he was in 1958.

HANK AARON:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Broke the most famous record in sports, and it didn't change him. Went through unmitigated hell for having the gall to break that record, but did it with a lot of class and dignity.

I remember a conversation you and I had, brought him back to play his last two years in Milwaukee. He made an interesting comment to me. Hank, you may not remember this, but he said to me at one point how happy he was to be back. But he said, "You know, I'm not the same Henry Aaron that you remembered 20 years ago," but he was. And that was the interesting part. He helped our organization, the young players, Robin Yount, and he conducted himself in a way that was just really remarkable.

So to this day, I say to you, Henry, more importantly than even the home runs and more importantly than breaking Babe Ruth's record, was the person that you were and are to this day, and that's what's meant so much. So a very, very sincere thank you for everything that you've done. Thank you (applause).

HANK AARON:  Thank you very much.

JON MILLER:  Thanks to Hank Aaron and the Commissioner. We have time for a few questions.  

Q. Giancarlo, could you tell us a little bit how your recovery has gone from being hit by the pitch. How you're feeling and just what you've had to go through to get your health back.

GIANCARLO STANTON:  It was a long process of just kind of laying around the house, and not being able to leave too much. But I feel great now, and I'll be back to my normal offseason routine and shouldn't skip a beat.

Q. You spoke a little bit about what it means to get this award in the name of Mr. Hank Aaron. Can you expand a little bit about that. Also, after the injury, did you have any fear about your career?

GIANCARLO STANTON:  Well, hearing Bud's story, it just solidifies that the person you are is bigger than how good you are on the baseball field. So in addition to the performance and all that, reflecting on what type of person Hank was is an even greater accomplishment to be in the same category as for me.

Fear of my own career? If I would have broken my eye socket, yes. So that was more the one thing I was    in getting the results I wanted to know about, but I didn't, so I was not worried about it anymore.

JON MILLER:  If there are any questions for Mike Trout, I'll be answering on behalf of Mike (laughter).

Q. Commissioner, would you and Henry talk about how you met, and how you clicked as friends back those many years ago?

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Well, I can't say I remember exactly how we met, but we did. I really had an intense interest in baseball; Henry's right. We became friends. In fact, I'll beat him to the punch, but I think it's a historical fact I sold him his first car, too. We did become friends, and we did a lot of things together. I don't know how else to say but we just hit it off right from the start.

HANK AARON:  Well, he did sell me my first car. And to this day I think Bud still owes me $5 and some cents change. But I did. I bought my first car from him. In fact, the first automobile I ever had when I first got to the Big Leagues. I was    I loved that car so much that driving it back to Mobile, Alabama    I have to tell this. This is the first time I've ever said this, but driving that car back to Mobile, the street that I was staying on was not paved. And when it rained I put it in the garage, and I would walk because I really loved that automobile. I really did (laughter).

But, no, he didn't only do that, but he gave every ballplayer    his company gave every ballplayer an automobile, and that was back in the good old days. I know I've said this several times, we all got laundry done free, spic and span. We got all our dairy free, milk free. We got gasoline free. So when you're making $5,000 a year, that helps. You know? We had a very young ballclub at that time. Ed Matthews, myself, Johnny Logan, and all these kids, and all of them were young and raising families, so that helped. That really helped.

And the people of Milwaukee were just absolutely    I mean, they were great. I can't say enough about them. In fact, I have not missed a year from not going back there. I've got lots of friends there. I just love Milwaukee. It's one city that I feel like I can go there and do no wrong.

So, really, I just feel great by going back there because I've got friends, like the Commissioner here.

Q. What kind of car was it?

HANK AARON:  A Ford. It was beautiful, too. Convertible (laughing).

Q. Giancarlo, power has always been part of your game. But this year you raised your on base percentage considerably. What did you do? Have you made a change or anything in your approach at the plate that's allowed you to do that and maybe become a better hitter?

GIANCARLO STANTON:  Yeah, my approach is always going to be altered by the competition or what's been going on in the past couple of weeks and how I feel.

So just understanding situations a little better. Understanding who is on the mound. Understanding who is behind me, who is on base. Just realizing what's going on in the game a little bit more. I'd say learning the game more.

Q. Bud, could you please tell the story on how you decided to bring Hank back to Milwaukee to finish his career.

COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG:  Well, there were a lot of reasons, but we had a young club. We needed stability. It was the first of many moves that really led us to having good teams. My friend Bill Bartholomay is sitting here, so he and I made this deal.

When I knew there was a chance to do it, it was for me, almost unbelievable. It just brought back    and I knew what it would do. The Braves leaving had been a tough thing for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We struggled in the early years. We were an expansion team. Somebody once told me after we lost our first game 12 0, "You wanted a team in the worst way and that's what you got," and the guy was right.

So the evolution of it was slow. But the thought of bringing Henry Aaron back would bring back memories of the great '50s and so on, and so forth. But the most important thing, I meant what I said before, we had a lot of really good young players, particularly Robin Yount, and I knew that we needed somebody to really provide stability, and he did more than that.

I can remember in New York walking in the hotel one day and sitting over having lunch were Henry Aaron and Robin Yount, and I said to myself, we're doing okay.

It was so critical to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It brought back so many wonderful memories. More importantly, he helped build clubs that later became very, very good, and it was just a pleasure to have him.

Q. Hank, could you talk about it from your perspective.

HANK AARON:  Well, I kind of looked at it the same way that the Commissioner did. I really had the opportunity    someone once said, "Did you want to play anymore?" I really actually didn't want to play. The only place I would have played would have been Milwaukee. I had opportunity to go other places, but it didn't bother me. I wanted to play in Milwaukee, and I told the Commissioner that, at that time he was the owner, Bud Selig, I told him the only way I would come back and play would be in Milwaukee, because if I couldn't come back to Milwaukee, I wasn't going to play. I was going to hang it up and retire.

So he said, "Well, I want you to come back." He said, "I want you to come back and play two more years in Milwaukee." So I said, "Okay." So that's what happened.

JON MILLER:  At this point, the next plan of action is for the three of you to stand up for a photo op, please.

Again, congratulations to Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout.