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The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaronby Howard Bryant
Synopses & Reviews
In the thirty-four 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 thirty home runs per season fifteen times, becoming the first player in history to hammer five hundred home runs and three thousand 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.
In this penetrating chronicle of the social upheaval of the years during which Hank Aaron played baseball, Bryant reveals how Aaron stood against racism with dignity and determination, helping transform the role and significance of the professional black athlete and turning Aaron into a national icon.
The first definitive biography of Henry Aaron—baseball’s great home-run champion and one of its most enduring legends.
As the steroid controversy has increasingly tarnished baseball’s image, Hank Aaron’s achievements have come to seem all the more remarkable: the first player to pass Babe Ruth in home runs, Aaron held that record for thirty-three years while shattering other records (RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits) and setting new ones (hitting at least thirty home runs per season fifteen times). But his achievements run much deeper than his stats. Chronicling the social upheavals of the years during which Aaron played (1954 to 1976), Howard Bryant shows us how the dignity and determination with which he stood against racism—on and off the field, and as one of the first blacks in baseball’s upper management—helped transform the role and significance of the professional black athlete and turn Aaron into an national icon.
Eloquently written, detailed, and penetrating, this is a revelatory portrait of both the great ballplayer and the complicated private man.
About the Author
Howard Bryant is the author of Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, which was a finalist for the Society for American Baseball Research’s 2003 Seymour Medal, and Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball. He is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine; appears regularly on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, ESPN First Take, and Outside the Lines; and serves as sports correspondent for NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. He lives in western Massachusetts.
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