Aaron’s first HR came in seventh big league game

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Hank Aaron had gone homerless in his first six big league games at the start of the 1954 season, so there was no reason to think something special was going to happen in his seventh game.

But on April 23, 1954, Aaron hit the first of what turned out to be 755 career home runs.

It was the start of something that would take Aaron all the way to Cooperstown.

“The first time I saw him in Spring Training, he had ‘major league’ written all over him,” said Braves teammate Andy Pafko. “(He was) one of those guys who comes around maybe once every 100 years.”

The 20-year-old Aaron had cracked the Braves’ lineup during the spring when Bobby Thomson, who was slated to be Milwaukee’s regular left fielder, broke his ankle. In the Braves’ first six games that year, Aaron played three in left and three in right field – going 5-for-23 (.217) with no RBI. But in Game 7, Aaron – batting sixth and playing right field against the Cardinals – went 3-for-7.

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In the first inning, Aaron singled to drive in Danny O’Connell, the first of a record 2,297 RBI that Aaron would post. Then with one out in the top of the sixth, Aaron belted his first career home run against St. Louis’ Vic Raschi – the same pitcher who surrendered Aaron’s first big league hit on April 15, 1954.

The Braves would go on to win the game 7-5 in 14 innings, with Aaron scoring the seventh run on a Jim Pendleton single. By the time April ended, Aaron was hitting .333. Despite his own broken ankle that he suffered on Sept. 5, Aaron finished his rookie season with a .280 batting average to go with 13 home runs and 69 RBI in 122 games. It would be his lowest home run total until 1975 – when he was 41 years old.

Aaron held the career home run record from 1974-2007, and remains Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856).

If each of his 755 home runs were deducted from his career hit total, he would still have a total of 3,016 hits.

Starting in his second year and continuing through 1967, Aaron scored 100-or-more runs every season.

“There is no shortcut in life,” Aaron said.

Aaron was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series