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 season15 times, becoming the first player in history to hammer 500 home runs and 3000 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, 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 Ruth's 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 today's 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 Robinson's 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
"Plenty of baseball for the fan, but even more insight into why Aaron matters beyond the game." (Kirkus Reviews)
"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)
The truth be told, I am a huge baseball fan so I love these books about the players I watched as I grew up. This book is a really interesting story, includes lots of baseball detail, and offers insight into the history of the sport during Aaron's great career. The reader is good, though someone should have checked the pronunciation of well-known player's names before releasing this audiobook (thus the 4 out of 5 stars). For example, it was distracting and irritating to hear the reader mispronoun Red Schoendienst (I didn't recognize who he was talking about at first) and Bill Virdon's names. Still, this is a small glitch, overlook it and enjoy this book. If you like this, read the wonderful biographies of Clemente and Koufax too.
The most complete biography of Henry Aaron I've ever read. Howard Bryant's opus peels back the layers of a man more complex than people were willing to believe he was and puts his quiet strength and dignity on full display.
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