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Happy Birthday, Hammerin' Hank!!

Discussion in 'All Other San Diego Sports' started by BFISA, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. BFISA

    BFISA Well-Known Member

    Nov 16, 2005
    Famous Celebrate Hank Aaron's Birthday​

    Last Edited: Friday, 06 Feb 2009, 1:38 PM EST
    Created On: Friday, 06 Feb 2009, 1:38 PM EST

    * By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer

    ATLANTA - Barry Bonds trudged back to court to again plead his innocence. Hank Aaron dined alongside a former president on his 75th birthday.

    The contrast between the current and former home run kings couldn't have been more striking.

    From Bill Clinton to baseball commissioner Bug Selig, the famous came together Thursday night to celebrate a landmark birthday for "Hammerin' Hank," the modest man who hit 755 homers during his Hall of Fame career.

    "This means an awful lot to me," Aaron said after posing for pictures with some of his birthday guests. "It means you tried to carry yourself in such a way that people have respect for you. That's the most important thing. I don't try to do anything special. I just try to share whatever I've been able to accomplish with other people."

    On the other side of the country, Bonds entered a San Francisco courtroom to plead not guilty to charges he lied when he told a grand jury he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs as he was chasing Aaron's record.

    Aaron declined to discuss Bonds' legal woes, nor the perception that his record of 762 homers is tainted by allegations of drug use.

    "I haven't been keeping up with it. I really haven't," Aaron said of the Bonds case. "I haven't thought about it one way or the other. Really."

    Selig, a longtime friend of Aaron who watched him play when the Braves were in Milwaukee, wouldn't comment on Bonds' court case. The commissioner balked, as well, when asked whether there was any chance the baseball record book could be altered ? an asterisk, perhaps? ? if the former San Francisco Giants slugger is convicted on federal perjury charges.

    "Well, let's not get into hypotheticals," Selig said. "This is a night to enjoy. Let's see how that all plays out."

    Clinton, who dined at Aaron's table, credited him with helping carve a path of racial tolerance that led to the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama.

    "We're a different country now," Clinton said, noting the racist letters that Aaron received while chasing Ruth's mark of 715 homers, some even threatening to kill the black man if he broke a white hero's record.

    "You've given us far more than we'll ever give you," Clinton told Aaron.

    The former slugger said he was thrilled with Obama's election but doesn't spend much time dwelling on the past.

    "I am extremely happy with what happened in the country with having a black president," he said. "I don't think about 15, 20 years ago. I don't have time to. I think about the good time I'm having now. I've got the respect of people. That's the most important thing, trying to do everything I can and do it right."

    Former Braves owner Ted Turner scoffed at questions about Bonds, but did say he considers Aaron the greatest player ever ? and still the home run king.

    "Yes, I do," Turner said.

    Tom Johnson, the retired chairman of CNN, appeared to take a swipe at Bonds while paying tribute to Aaron.

    "You will always rank number one in my record book, without an asterisk," Johnson said. "Henry, you never disappointed us. Not once. Long after all of us are gone, your name, the name of Henry Aaron, will symbolize what I believe it really means to be a genuine American hero."

    While always a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, Aaron agreed to a party that would benefit his Chasing The Dream foundation, which helps underprivileged youths pursue their talents ? an effort that stretches far beyond the baseball field.

    "This is not just a celebration of Hank Aaron," he said. "This is a celebration of the kids chasing a dream. I'm so proud of these kids. That's what makes me proud. That's what keeps me going."

    Selig, who'll turn 75 later this year, said he talks frequently with Aaron by telephone and often turns to him for advice on baseball issues.

    "He really does have wonderful judgment about things," Selig said. "It's easy to be a friend with him."

    If Aaron could change one thing about the sport he played so well, what would it be? His reply came quickly: a salary cap.

    "I would try to put a cap on things," he said. "Really, that's the thing that I see will probably do baseball in if we don't have some kind of money cap. I go back to the Yankees and the way they just gobble up players. You don't need to do that really. It was proven last year when Tampa was in the World Series. They probably had one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball. You just need to put the right people on the field and do it right.

    "I think a cap would get baseball back to where it was before."

    His wife, Billye, closed the night by serenading her husband with a Marilyn Monroe-like performance of "Happy Birthday."

    Aaron couldn't stop smiling.

    The contrast couldn't have been more striking.

    Copyright Associated Press, Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  2. BLITZED56

    BLITZED56 Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2008
    As Turner said, Hank Aaron is still the home run king! :yes:
  3. BFISA

    BFISA Well-Known Member

    Nov 16, 2005
    IMHO, I agree!! :yes:
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