Clipped From The Daily Herald
^ ^ ««cauajr. Aaron Urges Hiring Black Manager ^^^ ^^ (Editor's Note: In the visitors' clubhouse at Shea Stadium the other day, home run king Hank Aaron said to UPI Sports Editor and Columnist Milton Richman, "Pull up a chair and sit down." Hank wanted to get some things off his chest: like what really was uppermost in his mind while he was trying to break Babe Ruth's record; why he always has played it cool and conservative rather than more colorful and flamboyant; what he tells his, two sons about the opportunities—and the limitations—they still face in life having been born black. Richman offers this revealing side of Hank Aaron in the following dispatch.) By MILTON RICHMAN UPI Sports Editor NEW YORK (UPI) - Hank Aaron has done everything on the ballfield you could possibly imagine, and some things you possibly couldn't. Most of these things came easy to him. Now comes the hard part- More Bridge Left to Cross quitting, which means never doing any of these things again at all. There is one more bridge left for him to cross. He's not that eager to do it, but he realizes there is no other way out. This is something he always knew was there waiting for hjrn^. Only a few more days remain before Hank Aaron calls it quits, before he places his prized 34-'/z inch, 34-ounce bat back in the rack for the last time, peels off his uniform for good and hangs up his baseball shoes, a pair Joe Pepitone never bothered taking with him when he left the club to go to Japan. More and more now, Atlanta's 40-year-old home run king finds himself thinking about Oct. 2, the night the Braves close out the season against the Cincinnati Reds at home and the night Aaron also closes out his extraordinary 20-year playing career. Most people fear the unknown. Hank Aaron has little idea what lies ahead for him beginning Oct. 3, when he ventures into the "outside world" but he doesn't fear it whatever it may turn out to be. A bit apprehensive, yes. That's only natural considering he has spent the past 22 years doing only one thing, playing professional baseball. "It's going to be a whole new ball game," he says, speaking of his impending retirement. "I think I could play another year, but I don't want to. Right now all I think about is the season ending." Time has tampered with Hank Aaron's throwing arm and with his knees to some degree, but generally speaking, it has treated him kindly. Never mind that he can't get as much on the ball from the outfield as, say, a Cesar Geronimo. Forget that he's no Lou Brock on the bases. And, okay, so he isn't as slim and trim around the waist as Willie Davis. Of much greater importance is that Hank Aaron's mind is dearer, sharper and keener than it has ever been in his entire life, and after nearly a quarter century in baseball, he believes he has channeled his values into truer perspective than they have ever been before. He was sitting in front of his locker at Shea Stadium the other day prior to a ball game with the Mets and he began talking about what breaking Babe Ruth's home run record really meant to him. I've heard Hank Aaron discuss the same subject before, usually when somebody asked him about it, but I'd never heard him talk about it in quite this same way. He has always been honest. This time he seemed to speak much more freely, and with far less restraint than I had ever heard him employ. "I think," he said, slowly, weighing his words carefully so that they would better convey his thoughts, "that my breaking Babe Ruth's record probably was one of the greatest moments in the history of sports. I'm not saying that simply because I happened to be the one to do it. I say it because the great majority of people thought that record never would be broken by anybody. "I'm not talking strictly from a racial viewpoint now—at least I don't mean to be—but I think it was one of the greatest things that ever happened to a black ballplayer. "Babe Ruth's record was one thing. What was more important to me, what I wanted to prove to everybody, was that a black player can play ball and function well under extreme pressure. That was what I always had in the back my mind. "I read that blacks can't think, that they don't have the mental equipment to think properly and perform during periods of great stress. Some of the ballplayers during Jackie Robinson's time—I'm not going to name any names, but I remember who they were-Jield that belief I'm talking about. That's why I'm so happy I broke the record, not just for the sake of breaking it." By nature, Hank Aaron is not loud. Nor does he bludgeon anybody over the head with his opinions. That's the way he was brought up by his father and mother, who essentially are quiet, well-bred people. Hank Aaron is that way himself. He seldom had much to say during his 20 years with the Braves and mostly because of this he was generally considered one of the more "passive" blacks. That doesn't mean, however, he had no opinion regarding the progress, or lack of it, pertaining to the black man in baseball. "I don't think baseball has moved as far as it should have since Jackie Robinson's time," says Aaron. "Facts are facts. We have Monte Irvin in the Commissioner's office and we have Bill Lucas in the front office (of the Atlanta Braves) and that's all. . There've been four managerial changes so far this year, and a black man wasn't considered for any of them. To be absolutely honest about it, I wouldn't like to manage. But I know other blacks in baseball who would, and could. HANK AARON got a few things off his chest the other day while talking with UPI reporter Milton Richman. "I have two boys, Henry, 17, and Larry, 16, and when I sit down and talk with them the only thing I feel I can honestly say to them is 'you can play 20 years and then you go to the back of the bus again. You can play for 20 years and give them all the service you are capable of, then you have to forget about it. We're Giants on Field, But That** It There's no place for you, no future.' "I'm only going by the facts," Aaron adds. "We don't move fast enough in this game. We blacks have shown talent, we've been giants on the field, and that's the end of it. 'Til tell you another thing that bothers me. After I made the statement I did at the AllStar game (saying Braves' general manager Eddie Robinson had dismissed him as a possible managerial candidate without even bothering to ask him whether he was interested), many people took out after me saying 'take it easy,"maybe you better qualify what you said' and 'do you think you're qualified to manage a major league club?' "What makes these people who tell me these things feel they should be the judges of what I should or shouldn't say? If all these managers that are being hired are so 'qualified,' why is there such a big turnover?'' The Braves already have said they will have a job for Aaron in some capacity when he's finished playing ball, but so far they have not said in what specific capacity. While Hank Aaron spoke in the visitors' dressing quarters at Shea Stadium the other day, a number of persons waited in front of him to get his attention for one thing or another. Donald Davidson, the Braves' assistant to the chairman, had a young man in tow who had painstakingly mounted hundreds of Oh Henry candy bar wrappers in the shape of a huge horseshoe that also included many photos of Aaron during various stages of his career. The young man merely wished to meet Aaron and turn over his handiwork to him. The Braves' slugger shook hands with the youngster and thanked him for the unusual gift. One of the Mets' officials also was waiting for a word with Hank Aaron. This might be the last opportunity he'd have to see him in some time and he wanted to wish Aaron all the best. A TV sportscaster was seeking a pre-game interview, which Aaron agreed to, and then a kid batting practice pitcher wearing a Mets' uniform and holding a baseball in his hand for Aaron to autograph waited his turn. "I want to shake your hand," the kid said, his nervousness plainly apparent. "Not only because you're a great ballplayer, but because of your attitude and your education of other people." Aaron thanked the young batting practice pitcher and signed the baseball for him. It was obvious he was pleased by the boy's genuineness. "You know what gives me the biggest kick?" Aaron asked. "When I come across small kids who don't even know baseball, and somebody goes over and asks 'em 'whom do you like?' and they say 'Hank Aaron.' I enjoy that." That's one of Babe Ruth's qualities Hank Aaron has. He loves kids. "One of the greatest things that ever happened was having that bat and ball taken to Harlem so the kids could see them for themselves," he said, talking about the bat and ball which had figured in his 715th home run. "Certainly, the bat and ball will be able to be seen in Cooperstown, but these kids in Harlem never would be able to see them up there. They simply don't have the economics to get to a place like Cooperstown. You and I may not think it's far away, but when you don't have the money to get there, it's an entirely different world." Hank Aaron isn't sure yet what he'll do after he plays in his last •• mi mi WP mi :mmf -mmr mi game in the Braves' season finale with the Reds at Atlanta on Oct. 2. He is sure he isn't going to play again next year. "I think I could play another year, but I don't want to," he said, "Oh, sure, I'm going to come out to the ball park now and then next year, no matter what I decide to do. As far as what I'm going to do after I finish playing next month, I really don't know yet. I thought about touring the whole country to get my mind off all this, but I don't think that would work out. I'd be in Africa somewhere and I'd be looking for an American newspaper to get the scores. "I'm not deluding myself one bit. I know how difficult it's going to be to quit playing baseball. It's going to be the hardest thing I ever did in my life. You don't do something for 20 years, something you love, and then just walk away from it." Hank Aaron glanced around the Braves' clubhouse where some of the other players were changing their shirts, kneading their gloves and doing all those other little thing players do to kill time before the game starts. He looked at his buddy, catcher Paul Casanova, across the way, and then at some of the others in the far corner of the room. They seemed to make him think back to an earlier time in his big league career, and when I asked him if any one player had had a marked influence on him, he thought a moment and then said : "I didn't try to imitate anybody. I played like Hank Aaron. People now tell me had I been a flashier ballplayer, I'd have been more popular. I couldn't be something I wasn't, though. I did it my way. It was the only way I knew. "You know, I believe good things come to those who wait. I just waited, that's all. I wasn't trying to win any popularity contest. If others were rated over me, received more attention than I did, there wasn't a whole lot I could really do about it. "I've hpard thpm Qav I'm a A v- lit a I u kilCllJ On V 1 JJ1 gt 'lazy type' ballplayer. I'm not a lazy type ballplayer. I didn't see any need to run to the stands when the ball was 20 rows up That's false hustle." Hank Aaron, who had been Best of All Time? "Willie" ^_ / • ~ sitting with his back up against his locker, got up and poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot the equipment man provided in the clubhouse. He came back and I had two questions for him. Whom did he consider the No. 1 ballplayer, the most complete one, around today? Cesar Cedeno, he said. What about the best he ever saw in all the time he has been playing? Hank Aaron was very quick with that one. "Willie," was all he said.