In the 34 years since his retirement, Henry Aaron's reputation has only grown in magnitude: he broke existing records (rbis, total bases, extra-base hits) and set new ones (hitting at least 30 home runs per season 15 times, becoming the first player in history to hammer 500 home runs and 3,000 hits). But his influence extends beyond statistics, and at long last here is the first definitive biography of one of baseball's immortal figures.
Based on meticulous research and interviews with former teammates, family members, two former presidents, and Aaron himself, The Last Hero chronicles Aaron's childhood in segregated Alabama, his brief stardom in the Negro Leagues, his complicated relationship with celebrity, and his historic rivalry with Willie Mays, all culminating in the defining event of his life: his shattering of Babe Ruths all-time home-run record.
Bryant also examines Aaron's more complex second act: his quest to become an important voice beyond the ball field when his playing days had ended, his rediscovery by a public disillusioned with todays tainted heroes, and his disappointment that his career home-run record was finally broken by Barry Bonds during the steroid era, baseball's greatest scandal.
Bryant 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 Robinsons mission to obtain full equality for African-Americans, both in baseball and society, while he lived uncomfortably in the public spotlight. Eloquently written, detailed and penetrating, this is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon.
©2010 Howard Bryant (P)2010 Random House
"An eye-opening biography of the Braves outfielder, the real home-run king...but Bryant makes clear that this slugger's story was always about more than merely overcoming blazing fastballs. Plenty of baseball for the fan, but even more insight into why Aaron matters beyond the game." (Kirkus)
"Not just another book on Hank's prodigious ability to elevate baseballs over the fences....the postcareer exploits of Aaron will inspire all readers. Bryant evokes the apparently distant world marked by cruel segregation, racism, and poverty of the soul, as well as reliving some of the greatest moments of baseball. A most welcome book, most highly recommended." (Library Journal)
Bryant tells Henry Aarons' legendary story through his playing days to the difficult decision Aaron, a man who hates cheating, made regarding how to respond to Bonds' fraudulent capture of his all time homerun record. Eclipsed by Jackie Robinson's career, Aaron's challenging contribution and struggle with civil rights is also covered. In this he sought respect, as he did with regard to his status among contemporaries like Mays and Musial. Aaron being the greatest hitter in baseball history makes this an excellent book for any baseball fan, but more than this, Aaron is an enormous and meaningful character in American lore and should be of interest to everyone.
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