Everybody knows that Hank Aaron got his start, and achieved baseball immortality with the Braves — Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
But the truth is, the man who would eventually take down Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record (and many other marks), made his professional(ish) debut with the Pritchett Athletics when he was just a junior in high school.
Not long after that, Aaron signed on with the Mobile Black Bears, an independent Negro League team.
It wasn’t until November of 1951, though, when Aaron was still just 17 years old, that he signed his first deal with a major league team.
But … not the Braves.
Nope, Aaron’s first major exposure came with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, and he put on such a show in the Circle City that he lasted just three months before the New York Giants and Boston Braves came calling.
According to Hank, the Giants might have fielded Willie Mays and Hammerin’ Hank had Boston not offered him $50 more per month.
Within two years, of course, Aaron was with the Braves to stay, finishing fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1954. From there, it was a long, straight march into the history books.
By the time Aaron finally hung up his spikes after the 1976 season, he owned the home run record, and the RBI record, and the National League hits record, and so many more — he was a legend.
Not even a return trip to Milwaukee, in a strange marriage with the Brewers uniform, could dim that legacy.
And, even after he retired, Aaron didn’t disappear from the baseball card landscape.
These days, of course, anyone who has ever set foot on a baseball field is fair game to be included in a throwback card, or a never-was card, or a relic card.
In the years directly after Aaron’s departure, though, choices were few, even for then-current players.
It’s sort of fitting, then, that one of the first cards of Bad Henry issued after his career concluded brought his Major League journey full-circle.
In 1977, as the hobby was just starting to bubble, just beginning to simmer, before the lava-hot explosion in the 1980s, a set of black-and-white baseball cards emerged from the city often dubbed “The Crossroads of America.”
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There, in Indianapolis, the Sertoma Superstars first saw the light of day — at a baseball card show, no less!
Issued by Sertoma, a Kansas City organization dedicated to helping children hear better, the 25-card set featured a mix of active and retired players, legends and mere stars.
There were name like Bob Allison and Tony Oliva and Gaylord Perry and Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson.
And, of course, Hank Aaron.
Right there in Indianapolis, where a key part of his legendary journey began.
Hank Aaron, of course, passed away in January of 2021. To celebrate his brilliant career, we put together a quick video collage of his baseball cards over on YouTube:
That shot of Aaron on his Sertoma card is a little bland, but there are plenty of colorful Hammer goodies out there. Take this eBay listing, for example:
That’s a throwback Braves helmet with Aaron’s autograph on the white bill.
Check out the full eBay listing right here (affiliate link).
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