“Life After Baseball” for Hammerin’ Hank
Written by Jim Rednour   
Wednesday, 31 January 2007

After retiring from baseball at the end of the 1976 season, the greatest home run hitter of all time, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron set his sights on succeeding in business and helping underprivileged young people achieve their dreams. Together with his wife Billye, he founded the “Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation”, which provides financial assistance to underprivileged youths seeking to pursue their talents and better themselves through education. Locally, funds for the foundation come from the Hank Aaron Golf Tournament held each summer in the Milwaukee area. It is administered from Atlanta, Hank's current home, with proceeds targeted toward youths in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

Hank Aaron honored in Atlanta
Hank Aaron honored in Atlanta
His many honors and awards include twenty-four All-Star Game appearances; the Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Bush; and the Presidential Citizens Medal, awarded by President Clinton; and the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor, The Silver Buffalo Award For Distinguished Service To Youth. Presented annually to adults who generously dedicate their time and resources for the benefit of America's youth. Since 1925, many well-known individuals, including thirteen U.S. presidents, artist Norman Rockwell, artist and film producer Walt Disney, and founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund Marian Wright Edleman, have received the Silver Buffalo Award.

But Hank Aaron’s most prized honor came on August 1, 1982 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and received votes on 97.8 percent of the ballots. At the time, only Ty Cobb received a higher percentage (98.2) of votes cast.

Another landmark achievement for the game’s greatest sluggers, was being named The Atlanta Brave's vice president of player development, making him one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management.

Since December 1989, he has served as senior vice president and assistant to the Braves' president. He also served as the corporate vice president of community relations for TBS, a member of the company's board of directors and the vice president of business development for The Airport Network, as well as the Atlanta Technical Institute, Ports Authority of Georgia, and the Atlanta Braves, and is a member of the Board of Governors for Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

On February 5, 1999, at his 65th birthday celebration, Major League Baseball announced the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award. It was the first major award to be introduced in more than thirty year and it was also the first award named after a player who was still alive. Later that year, he ranked number 5 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Aaron speaks to youth
Aaron speaks to youth
Speaking to an overflowing crowd of young people at Tuskegee University in Alabama during Black History Month 2003, Aaron urged them to always try to "HIT A HOME RUN IN LIFE.”

“You may not ever hit a homerun on a baseball diamond," he told them, "but the one thing you can do is be the very best teacher in the world. You can be the very best doctor in the world. You can be the very best veterinarian, lawyer, in the world. All of these things are in front of you,” the Mobile native said. "Just remember that you have your own agenda, and stick with it. I stuck with mine. I wanted to be a baseball player. I wanted to be the best, and I was successful at doing that. You are the future of this country. What you do, we depend on it, all of us. Please, whatever you do, don't follow — lead," Aaron said.

In describing the formation of the “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream Foundation,” Hanks wife, Billye Suber Aaron, the philanthropic trust’s president and co-founder explained how she approached her husband about starting a foundation to help youngsters who, like him, came from humble beginnings. "Our intent was to encourage youngsters to dream a dream and then do what we could to help that dream take root and grow,” Billye told the young people in attendance. "Henry had the feeling that we need to reach youngsters at an early age (9 to 12) before their attention is diverted by the communities in which they live," she said. "If they focus, if they have talent, they can certainly achieve. If they do not become stars, they can certainly become good citizens."

Aaron is a leader by example, owning and operating numerous restaurant franchises, including Church’s, Popeye’s, and Krispy Kreme franchises in the Atlanta area. He also owns Hank Aaron BMW of south Atlanta in Union City, GA; where every car is sold with an autographed baseball; as well as a Hyundai and Honda dealer in Griffin, GA and a Toyota and Scion dealer in McDonough, GA.

Statues of Aaron stand outside the front entrance of both Turner Field and Miller Park. The Braves have honored Aaron as Turner Field's address is 755 Hank Aaron Drive SE. Both the Braves and the Brewers have retired his number.