ATLANTA -- On a night that was all about the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's 715th home run, commissioner Bud Selig shared his favorite memory of the Braves' home run champion.
Selig talked about Aaron's 109th career home run, an 11th-inning blast that won the National League pennant for the then-Milwaukee Braves on Sept. 23, 1957.
"I was supposed to be taking an accounting class, but I drove off the road, cut the class and went to the ballgame and sat in the upper deck, in an obstructed view seat, said Selig. "And Henry hit a home run off Billy Muffett to win the pennant. It was really one of the great moments [of my life]. I’ll never forget it."
Aaron was in just his fourth major-league season, but it was a special season. He hit 44 home runs (a career high at that point) while batting .322 and driving in 132 runs. The Braves won the pennant, and went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. Aaron won his first, and only, Most Valuable Player award.
It took Aaron 16 years, six months and 17 days to go from that 109th career home run to 715. When he finished his 23-year career he walked away with 755 dingers. He also left the game with 3,771 hits, 6,856 total bases, 1,402 walks and 240 stolen bases. Aaron was more than just a home run hitter.
"People really forget sometimes because of the 755 home runs, what a great all-around player he was," said Selig. "He was a great right fielder, not a good right fielder, he was a great right fielder. He had a great arm and was a great base runner. Henry could run.
"You look at his stats and everything he did hard to believe. 23 years he played and not a day on the disabled list."
Selig and Aaron used to attend football games together. "He’s still mad that even with Jim Brown they [Aaron's favorite team the Cleveland Browns] couldn’t beat the Packers," said Selig. "He still grumbles to me about that." They used to spend time talking, enjoying each other's company.
"You think back, and I’ve had a long relationship with Henry," said Selig. "I saw him play his first game in Milwaukee in ’54, and his last game in Milwaukee in 1976."
But Selig didn't see Aaron's 715th home run. He was in Milwaukee and had to watch the game on television.
"When he hit it [No. 715], I couldn't help but think of all the things he had done," said Selig. "We’re lucky. Baseball was really lucky. It had this thoughtful, sensitive, really decent person. So, we’re the ones that were lucky.
“He is what you hope an icon will be, but often isn’t."
Even though Aaron retired with 755 home runs and Barry Bonds passed him to land at 762, many people, especially Braves fans, still call Aaron the "true home run king." When Selig was asked whether or not Aaron was the true home run king, he responded in the affirmative.
"I’m always in a sensitive spot there," said Selig. "But, I’ve said that myself, and I’ll just leave it at that."