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The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  695 ratings  ·  81 reviews
In the thirty-four years since his retirement, Henry Aaron’s reputation has only grown in magnitude: he broke existing records (rbis, total bases, extra-base hits) and set new ones (hitting at least thirty home runs per season fifteen times, becoming the first player in history to hammer five hundred home runs and three thousand hits). But his influence extends beyond stat ...more
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Pantheon (first published 2010)
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Hank Aaron has a rightful place in sports history, but his legacy should be far greater. In many ways, he was hampered by his time, place, and personality. He came into his own during the last gasp of the Negro League, after Jackie Robinson broke the initial barrier, and had to share the spotlight with Willie Mays - a much more colorful, media-friendly personality. Unlike Jackie, Henry came from the deep South, and he was always much warier (rigthfully so) about the media portraying him as a dum ...more
Great overview of Aaron and his life. When you consider that the book starts in the 1930's and goes through Bonds breaking Aaron's record, you really get a sense for how much life Henry has lived. It's remarkable that he did so much both within and outside of baseball. In particular, it was interesting to get an insight into how the home run chase really was, how he actually felt like he lost something during it. The context was also fascinating. It was cool to see Aaron in the context of the ci ...more
Aaron's characteristic aloofness cripples this book from the outset. He's so carefully guarded his persona and image that Bryant is forced to dwell on his statistics and his contributions to African-American baseball, but these aspects have been covered elsewhere, and so feel pedantic and one-sided here. Bryant does his best with a difficult subject, and has certainly compiled a workable body of research, even if his vanilla writing doesn't really carry all of it efficiently. But again, the subj ...more
A really heartfelt and touching compendium of Henry Aaron's life and career. A son of the Jim Crow South, the man rose to the pinnacle of baseball and American achievement. The book was a turgid read for me for the first third of it because I have little interest in baseball history, names, and records. To the baseball fanatic though this may actually be the best part of the book. I prefer his life story, his overcoming of the odds and his contributions to social progress in general and baseball ...more
Alan Kaplan
Very good book about the Atlanta Braves icon. Warts and all biography. As a long time Atlanta Braves fan, I now understand why the fans and the city never really warmed to Henry Aaron. In spite of his refusal to play to the fans or the press, I now better appreciate his awesome baseball skills.
A beautiful, passionate, detailed, formidable but approachable saga of the life of a great ballplayer and a man whose career transcended baseball and should inspire all Americans, even those like myself who aren't into pro sports. Howard Bryant has done endless research and uses Aaron's long career and afterglow to tell the story of American baseball from the late days of the Negro League and the first years after Jackie Robinson began to integrate the game, and with it a great swathe of the sto ...more
Andy Miller
This biography of Henry Aaron was well balanced between a review of his baseball career that will appeal to both the casual and serious baseball fan and an analysis of Aaron's private life, especially as it was impacted by the racial issues.

My generation started following Henry Aaron after he had playing for years, well after baseball was starting to be integrated and after the civil rights movement of the early sixties. So we didn't really appreciate that Henry Aaron grew up in the deep south a
This book is a walk through a time in America that was not a pretty one for a black person growing up in much of the country. For Henry Aaron, it is also a story about a man trying to escape the repression and American style apartheid that he grew up with, even as he became an American icon for his exploits on the baseball field. Henry's life journey through Jim Crow laws and stifling oppression in America, to his landing as an American hero for breaking the legendary Babe Ruth's home run record ...more
Tom Gase
I really liked this book on Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant. I had already read a couple times, "If I Had a Hammer" by Aaron himself and thought it couldn't get much better than that, but I wanted to also read a biography on him to see if anything was missing. My conclusion is the two books compliment each other very well. Read both of them, Aaron's first if you have the chance. Bryant's book does a great job of moving the pace of the story and taking a little longer during the times I really wante ...more
Brad Hodges
Like many young baeball fans of the 1970s, one of my favorite players was Hank Aaron (the others were Al Kaline and Roberto Clemente). I was at just the right age to be excited about his breaking of Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, and watched live on April 8, 1974, when he took Al Downing deep for number 715. At that time he was the toast of America, but it was no secret, as revealed in Howard Bryant's fine biography of Aaron, The Last Hero, that it was a trying time for the man.

Henry Aaro
Outstanding biography of Henry Aaron. Bryant explores the difference between "Hank" Aaron, the public persona of perhaps the greatest all-around baseball player ever who, unfortunately I think, is mainly associated with one feat: breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record, and the real, intensely private individual, Henry Aaron. Briefly covers Aaron's childhood and adolescence, then proceeds year-by-year from his rookie season in 1954 to the World Series championship in 1957 through the end of ...more
Matt Simmons
Henry Aaron is an immensely complex figure, and Bryant's excellent, though sometimes trying, biography does him credit. Bryant fills the book with too much sort of meta "commentaries on baseball" and its history, tries to show Henry as a part of the game's story. This is appropriate, even necessary; the problem is that Bryant too often leads you to believe he's writing a book of baseball history, not a biography of one man. His recountings of games seem to go on endlessly, and often fall flat an ...more
Jul 02, 2010 Bob added it
Henry Aaron ("Hank" was more or less just the name used to refer to him as a baseball player) should be a larger than life figure with all of his accomplishments in baseball. When he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record in 1974, it was one of the most exciting moments in this young baseball fan's life (I was 8 at the time.)

However, the home run record seems to define Aaron in just one small part of his life, and for just one part of his career. Bryant tries to flesh out the whole person that
Hank Aaron seems to be a man lost in time. He was never as flashy as Mays, as historic as Robinson, or as white as Mantle and because of all that he gets forgotten when it comes to discussions of the greatest of all time. Aaron was a blue collar ballplayer who treated the game as a job; no basket catches, no stolen home plates, no drunken evenings in the outfield, he just showed up, put in his time and went home. There are no crazy Aaron quotes or outrageous Aaron stories, there is just the wor ...more
Jun 05, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: baseball fans and those interested in race relations
Shelves: biography-memoir
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Howard Bryant traces the life events of baseball great Henry Aaron. Bryant creates an interesting story with a good balance of baseball and civil rights issues.
Disclaimer: My idea of watching baseball is to watch Sports Center on ESPN and just get the best plays. I love sports, but an entire baseball game is too slow with too much spitting and scratching.
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No one wants to see that.
I was mostly interested in how race relations changed over the years through the eyes of baseball. Bryant supplies
I've admired Henry Aaron for a long time, and yes, I am old enough to remember the hoopla surrounding his home run chase. I was eleven years old when he broke Babe Ruth's all time home run record, and that moment, and the controversy surrounding an African American man breaking one of the hallowed records in the game, has always remained with me.

Before I go back to the home run record and a discussion of it, it's important to note that the title of the book is "A Life of Henry Aaron," no "Hank A
Many people age 25 or younger simply know Henry Aaron as the guy who held the home run record before Bonds. He was the avuncular fellow that appeared on the jumbotron in San Francisco when Barry hit #756 and congratulated him.

Aaron's statistics are legendary. He is in the top five in baseball history in home runs, runs scored, RBI, games played, at bats, total bases and hits. What is more impressive is his consistency: Aaron hit at least 20 home runs every year for 20 years. Or, if you prefer,
Carol Storm
Hank Aaron is an American hero, and he deserves respect. He also deserves a decent biography by a man who doesn't smother his subject with an avalanche of faint praise, backhanded compliments, and and endless stream of defensive apologies from the author. Howard Bryant tries so hard to make Henry Aaron into a transcendent figure, and yet the harder he tries the more Hank just looks like a nice, not-too-bright guy who hit a lot of home runs. Mind you, I'm sure there's more to Mr. Aaron than that. ...more
John Kaufmann
Excellent biography of Hank Aaron. The strength of this book is the depth of character it paints. In addition to all the stuff about Aaron's life and what he did each season, it provides the historical context around Aaron (especially his childhood and early professional years) in the South, and uses that and Aaron's experiences to help explain his character in some depth. As a result, I came away with more understanding of what motivated him and what kept him focused.
In the style of Steve Maraniss, Bryant brings us the life of a sport legend in the context of US excellent description of "Jim Crow" and its impact both on the US and Henry Aaron...Bryant also brings to life the years of integration, affecting baseball, the US and Milwaukee making this a meaningful historical is also personally meaningful as I was a young "Cheese-Head" just forming an interest in sports when both the Packers and the Braves began their ascension to the ...more
While Bryant has written an enjoyable sports biography of my childhood baseball hero, his book goes well beyond merely fleshing out the box scores and headlines. This book contains a psychological profile of Henry Aaron which gives the reader a glimpse of the emotional cost for an introvert forced to live an extrovert's life, a private man caught in a very public life, and a man with limited formal education striving to be taken seriously. Bryant has also provided the historical, sociological ba ...more
Another great read for someone who is a baseball fan. In my mind Aaron was always defined by his homerun title, but this book reminds me that not only was he a great power hitter but also someone who in his prime could hit for a great average and with some speed as well. It was very interesting learning about how he responded to the racism that was all around him as he grew up and became a stat machine, and how he interacted with management, the media and his teammates. It was also great that Br ...more
Daniel Nelson
What defines you? Is it any one characteristic or accomplishment? In this multi-layered biography of Henry Aaron author Howard Bryant has produced a portrait of a man who was routinely defined by one life event, breaking the all time MLB homerun record previously held by Babe Ruth. What this book establishes is that Henry Aaron was more than just a baseball player and a onetime homerun king, he was a dignified man who lived a private life based on respect and honor. More than breaking race barri ...more
I picked this book up because I like Howard Bryant's column in ESPN: The Magazine, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. It's one of the best biographies I've read in a while. Bryant got some great interviews with Aaron and people close to him. He did his historical research as well, which allowed him to put Aaron's life in context. The storytelling really brings the exciting baseball stories to life, and the issues of racism and segregation are covered well also. It's hard to believe t ...more
Enjoyable, but could have been about half the length. Aaron's playing his cards close to the vest means you finish still not thinking you have much insight into the man himself, but it's a good window into the inner world of baseball from Jackie Robinson to the steroid years.
Terry Heller
I really enjoyed this book. It is particularly rich in detail about Aaron's childhood and early baseball career - being one of the few black peole in his small Wisconsin town during his first year in the minors, the ceaseless racism in AA towns in the deep south in the early 50's, and playing in snake-infested outfields in the deep south in his year in Jacksonville. It also really nails Aaron's sense of dignity - he stayed true to a few core values over the years, which not only served him in go ...more
Bryant provides a fresh look at Henry Aaron by focusing on the man rather than the myth. Meticulous in its detail, and benefitting from Aaron's cooperation and participation in interviews, The Last Hero stands as a classic sports biography. On the down side, we don't get a lot of Aaron's thoughts during the final charge to become Home Run King because he still won't discuss the vile comments and racist letters he was subjected to as he caught and passed Babe Ruth. I don't blame Aaron for his rel ...more
Gary Land
Except for occasional sportswriting cliches, this biography of Henry Aaron is an excellent book. There is plenty of baseball in this volume--pennant races, home run records, etc.--but like the recent Willie Mays biography, it is more than a baseball book, for it explores the role of race in the last half of the twentieth century in America. Racial issues deeply affected Aaron, who wanted to be seen as more than a baseball player but was caught in a world that defined and limited him by its racia ...more
I really enjoyer this book. It provides a nice insight into man Henry Aaron and the ballplayer Hank Aaron. It also presents a nice overview of the majors from the 50's through the steriod era of the 2000's. It also describes the difficult life on a black ballplayer in the minors and the majors.

I grew up an avid baseball fan in the 50's and the 60's. I was a Milwaukee Braves fan ... foundly recalling the '56, '57 and '58 seasons. I also got a tremendous insite into Span, Burdette, Adcock, Mathew
This is an excellent book on the life of Hank Aaron. It digs into aspects of his life and career that I had no idea about. Howard Bryant was able to talk to some of Hank's closest friends, teammates and he covers concurrent issues of the times that effected baseball as well. And because Howard was able to speak with Hank directly this book is not just a collection of hearsay but a book that has fist hand accounts on the life of Henry Aaron. I came away with a much greater respect for his talent ...more
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The Baseball Book...: The Last Hero: Henry Aaron 3 16 Oct 20, 2011 09:44AM  
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