Hank Aaron, Race, and Baseball

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Journalist Sandy Tolan grew up in Milwaukee a devout Hank Aaron fan, even when the Braves moved his favorite slugger to Atlanta. Twenty-five years after Hammerin’ Hank broke Babe Ruth’s unbreakable home-run record, Tolan says Aaron is still the most underrated ball player ever. And he feels race has everything to do with it.

As Hank Aaron got closer and closer to the Babe’s magic toll of 715, he was also getting death threats and hate mail from Americans who couldn’t stomach a black man taking a white man’s record. “Don’t listen to them,” young Sandy Tolan wrote Aaron. “You’re my hero.”

How much have we all changed since then? When the Williams sisters are the queens of tennis, and Tiger Woods is the world’s greatest golfer – when John Rocker, playing for Hank Aaron’s old team, stands on the mound as a symbol of racial division and is described as a human confederate flag?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Sandy Tolan, author of Me and Hank

Jose Masso, Director of the Sports in Society Program at Northeastern University

Jon Entine, author of Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It.