This definitive biography of Henry (Hank) Aaron—one of baseball's immortal figures—is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon.
“Beautifully written and culturally important.” —The Washington Post
“The epic baseball tale of the second half of the 20th century.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution
After his retirement in 1976, Aaron’s reputation only grew in magnitude. But his influence extended beyond statistics. Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time—fighting against racism while at the same time benefiting from racial progress—and how he achieved his goal of continuing Jackie Robinson’s mission to obtain full equality for African Americans, both in baseball and society, while he lived uncomfortably in the public eye.
This biography of the African-American baseball great doesn't amount to the epic it wants to be. ESPN reporter Bryant (Juicing the Game) portrays Aaron's journey from Jim Crow Alabama to superstardom with the Milwaukee, then Atlanta Braves during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s as both a sports saga and a struggle against racism. (The Braves' spring training facilities stayed segregated into the 1960s, and Aaron's 1974 breaking of Babe Ruth's home run record was marred by racist death threats.) But while the author takes very seriously the sports commentator's traditional task of investing trivia with near-biblical portentousness And thus it came to pass that Henry Aaron became the first black majority owner of the first BMW franchise in the country he never quite succeeds at establishing Aaron's heroic stature. The slugger comes off as a superlatively skillful but unspectacular player whose civil rights activism is cautious and muted (though more outspoken later when he became a Braves executive). Throughout, he's a wary, reticent man given to rancor over slights, and the narrative can't help wandering toward more charismatic figures like Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson. Mightily as he swings, Bryant fails to knock Aaron's story out of the park. Photos.