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Hank Aaron: 'I knew it would happen'

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Posted: Thursday April 08, 1999 02:35 PM

  Neil Leifer

Hank Aaron visited the CNN/SI chat channel on April 8, 1999, the 25th anniversary of his breaking the all-time home run record. He sat in an office at Turner Field, where Aaron, 65, is now senior vice president and assistant to the president of the Atlanta Braves. He answered questions from users about all aspects of baseball and his career.

CNNSI_Host: From Eddy Rivera: What was going through your mind each time you stepped into the batters box knowing you were 1 hit away from the record?
Hank Aaron: I don't think anything was going through my mind. I knew eventually it would happen and I was waiting for a good pitch to hit.

CNNSI_Host: From Laruccia: Is it fair to say that if someone broke your record today, they would not be treated unfairly as you were.
Hank Aaron: I hope not. Things have changed. People would embrace him very much -- fans, sportswriters.

CNNSI_Host: From BRAVES: How do you feel about the destruction of Atlanta Fulton County stadium?
Hank Aaron: I had an attachment to that ballpark. It was a great ballpark for me. But Turner Field is a great ballpark.

CNNSI_Host: From Ken Kander: What are some of your memories about playing with the Indianapolis Clowns?
Hank Aaron: There was a lot of traveling on the bus, but being 18 years old didn't bother me. It taught to me to play a lot of baseball. I played as many as three games in one day.

CNNSI_Host: From James Webber: Who was the toughest pitcher for you to hit off of, and why?
Hank Aaron: Curt Simmons (St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia) because he threw a lot of junk.

CNNSI_Host: From TexAg: Did you get ever discouraged and want to quit after getting all the hate mail just before you broke the record?
Hank Aaron: Not one time. I was not about to quit.

CNNSI_Host: From Robert Fujimoto: Is there any ballplayer today that you feel has a legitimate shot at your record?
Hank Aaron: Ken Griffey Jr. because of his age. He has 352 home runs and is 29 years old.

CNNSI_Host: From Kevin Nett: Where did you enjoy playing more, Milwaukee of Atlanta?
Hank Aaron: I enjoyed both places. Milwaukee because of my rookie year, and Atlanta because the ballpark was suited for my type of hitting.

CNNSI_Host: From Pete: How do you think Mark McGwire would have done in you era?
Hank Aaron: I don't know how would he have done. *laughing*

CNNSI_Host: Adam: Who player was your favorite player back when you were a kid?
Hank Aaron: Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. I can't think of anyone else.

CNNSI_Host: From Jet: What has been the happiest moment in your life and your baseball career?
Hank Aaron: Two: Winning the MVP in 1957 and winning the championship that same year, beating the Yankees.

CNNSI_Host: From Dave: Which player today reminds you of yourself, if any?
Hank Aaron: I don't know of anybody, to be honest. The players do not have the same approach to the game.

CNNSI_Host: From ryan: How do you think the game of baseball has changed and do you think it will always be the favorite American pastime?
Hank Aaron: It will always the favorite pastime. It's changed for the better of the player. They make more money, and everything is in their favor.

CNNSI_Host: From James Dickie: In your opinion, who was the best Negro League player you ever saw that never made it to the big leagues?
Hank Aaron: I only played in the league for not even a year, so there were a number, but I can't name you one.

CNNSI_Host: From Tyler: What advice do you give young players today?
Hank Aaron: If they're thinking of pursuing baseball, there are a lot of opportunities, there's a good pension program. But it they decide to play, they should dedicate themselves. The game is played every day. Seven days a week. Not just four days of week.

CNNSI_Host: From habs: What team do you think will win the World Series this year?
Hank Aaron: Atlanta Braves :)

CNNSI_Host: From Laci: How did you like last year's home run race?
Hank Aaron: It was great for baseball, great for Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. It took a lot of pressure off baseball. We were without a commissioner, we had just gotten off the strike and still had a sour taste from the strike. It was a good thing for baseball.

CNNSI_Host: From Kenneth: Have you ever considered becoming a manager? Hank Aaron: No, never.

CNNSI_Host: From Sloopy: It is common knowledge that you received threats during the time before breaking the record. Have you ever received an apology by someone who made one of those threats, inside the baseball world, or outside?
Hank Aaron No. I've never received any apology. Would I accept it if I did? I would accept it. Yes. Would I have a choice?

CNNSI_Host: From aardwolf: Hank, I grew up in Milwaukee and my heart was broken when the Braves moved to Atlanta. How did you feel about the move at that time?
Hank Aaron: I had a lot of friends in Milwaukee, but that's baseball. It didn't bother me.

CNNSI_Host: From Doyle Gilmer: Do you feel that today's athlete is more in touch with the history of the game?
Hank Aaron: Yes, I think they understand the history of the game.

CNNSI_Host: From Brad: If Mark McGwire's 70th homer is worth $2.7 million, what do you think your 715th is worth?
Hank Aaron: I don't have any idea. I'm not in that market.

CNNSI_Host: From aparker: When you ran around the bases on your record setting home run, you encountered some fans who came out to congratulate you. Have you ever met them since that day?
Hank Aaron: Yes, they were young kids who meant no harm. They're doing fine today.

CNNSI_Host: From Hows: Do you still have that ball (715)?
Hank Aaron: Yes. It's in the Braves museum at Turner Field.

CNNSI_Host: From Cornell76: Hank, has the philosophy of the classic power hitter changed since your day, and if so, how?
Hank Aaron: I can't answer that. Baseball players are baseball players. They do the very best they can to win. They can be the best they can be. They haven't changed.

CNNSI_Host: From Sloopy: Besides the 1st and record breaking home runs, what is your most memorable HR?
Hank Aaron: The last one (755).

CNNSI_Host: From BRAVYANK: Are you glad the Brewers came to the National League?
Hank Aaron: Milwaukee is more identified with National League play than anyone. So I'm sure the people of Milwaukee are glad to see National League players.

CNNSI_Host: From Michael: Who in your opinion are the best overall pitcher and best overall hitter in the game today?
Hank Aaron: Going by stats, (Greg) Maddux is the best overall pitcher, Ken Griffey Jr. is the best hitter.

CNNSI_Host: From Jdenn4: What or who inspired and/or kept you going through the "rough" times?
Hank Aaron: I don't know of anyone but my mother.

CNNSI_Host: From Scott: Do you still watch a lot of baseball to this day?
Hank Aaron: Oh yeah. I watch the Braves every game I can. I watch baseball every chance I get.

CNNSI_Host: From charleyhus: Did your sons ever have an interest in playing professional baseball?
Hank Aaron: Yes. One of them did and didn't make it.

CNNSI_Host: From Faber: What do you like most about the game?
Hank Aaron: The competition. It's a game where if you're good enough, you can make it. You can be as big as McGwire or as small as Freddy Patek. You don't have to be very strong but as long as you're dedicated, you can make it.

Hank Aaron: I want to thank you for your questions. They were all thought out and I gave the answers the best I can. My advice to anyone wanting to play baseball or other sports is if you want to play sports, you shouldn't let anyone talk you out of it. The most important thing is to pursue it and give all you've got.

CNNSI_Host: and Major League Baseball thank you for your participation today, and your questions.

For more information on the events surrounding the celebration of Henry Aaron's anniversary season, visit the official site of Major League Baseball.

Related information
715: Hank Aaron's Glorious Ordeal
Ron Fimrite: 20th Anniversary of #715
Verducci: Five who could hit 756
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