In todays throwback we venture back to a time when the Atlanta Braves were merely courageous men living in Georgia. A Braves era before the times of Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Bobby Cox or Ted Turner. A period in time when Babe Ruth still held onto the career home run record. A date when a Braves prospect got his first start.
Before the start of the 1954 season, the Milwaukee Braves were involved in a multi-player deal with the New York Giants (San Francisco Giants) sending the great Bobby Thomson to the Braves. Thomson was terrific slugger for the Giants but was most notably known for his home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1951 National League pennant game. With two men on base and down 4-2 in the ninth inning, Thomson stepped to the plate and hit a walk-off home run that was proclaimed the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
Just acquired from the Giants that offseason, Bobby Thomson would break his ankle in three places during an exhibition on March 13th against the Yankees. The ‘suppose to be outfield star’ in Milwaukee would taken five months to recover. With Thomson sidelined, the Braves needed an answer for their recent outfield hole. Insert a 20-year-old promising prospect from Mobile Alabama, Henry “Hank” Aaron.
Before the start of the 1954 season, Hank Aaron would only play pro baseball for two seasons. While in Eau Claire during the 1952 season he hit .336 and was voted Rookie-of-the-year in the Northern League. Then in 1953 playing in Jacksonville he won the Sally League’s Most Valuable Player Award as he led league in six categories – Batting average (.353), RBI’s (186), Hits (324), Runs (194), Total Bags (338) and Doubles (55).
On March 14th 1954, Aaron would start his first game wearing the Milwaukee Braves jersey. Even though it was an exhibition game, Aaron came out swinging having three hits against the Boston Red Sox. The Braves knew they had something special in Aaron and never looked back. During his first major league season in 1954 he hit .280 with 27 doubles, 69 RBI’s and 13 home runs.
Because a star fell on March 13th 1954, another one rose the day after. Hank Aaron would go on to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974 with 755. A record that stood strong until Barry Bonds would overtake Aaron in 2007.