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Groz Remembers: Interviewing all-time great Hank Aaron was a lifetime thrill

Jan 22, 2021, 12:51 PM
Hank Aaron...
Hank Aaron, the one-time MLB home run king, died at the age of 86. (AP)
(AP)

After spending 40-plus years in broadcasting, there aren’t too many interviews that you get excited about remembering. But I will never forget the spring of 1991 when I got the chance to interview Hank Aaron.

Audio: Danny and Gallant remember the legendary Hank Aaron

I only caught the end of Hank Aaron’s career, but like many I was thrilled and awed by his chase and passing of Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Aaron, who died Friday at the age of 86, was different from Muhammed Ali and some of the other sports starts of the 1970s – a quiet, respectful man. It was hard to believe he has going to be the home run champ because he wasn’t the biggest and didn’t hit it the farthest.

What was hardest for me to believe as a 13 year old was the amount of people who didn’t want him to break the record. Racism in America is as old as America itself and there are flashpoints through our history. Aaron breaking Ruth’s record was one of them.

His dignity during what was a time of unreal stress was remarkable. When he retired, it was as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He was a 25-time All-Star, a record that may never be broken. He still holds the records for career RBIs and total bases, and although many of us consider him the true home run champ, with characteristic grace and dignity he acknowledged Barry Bonds when he passed him on the all-time list with a video message to Bonds.

I had been in Seattle for a couple of months when I found out that I was going to have a chance to interview Aaron at the old Tower Books on Mercer. Even though he was a little harried and hassled, he sat down for an interview and it remains a lifetime thrill for me. “The Hammer” told the story of a teenage boy from Mobile, Ala., who played shortstop for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues and went on to become one of the greatest baseball players ever, staring down racism with a quiet determination that made him a legend.

Ali paid him this compliment: “The only man I idolize more then myself.”

Rest in peace “Hammerin’ Hank.”

Follow Dave “The Groz” Grosby on Twitter.

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Groz Remembers: Interviewing all-time great Hank Aaron was a lifetime thrill