Read The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant Online


In the thirty-four years since his retirement, Henry (Hank) Aaron's reputation has only grown in magnitude. But his influence extends beyond statistics, and at long last here is the first definitive biography of one of baseball's immortal figures.Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time - fighIn the thirty-four years since his retirement, Henry (Hank) Aaron's reputation has only grown in magnitude. But his influence extends beyond statistics, and at long last here is the first definitive biography of one of baseball's immortal figures.Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time - fighting against racism while at the same time benefiting from racial progress - and how he achieved his goal of continuing Jackie Robinson's mission to obtain full equality for African Americans, both in baseball and society, while he lived uncomfortably in the public eye. Eloquently written, detailed and penetrating, this is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon....

Title : The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375424854
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 600 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron Reviews

  • Montzalee Wittmann
    2018-12-01 20:30

    I picked up the audible book from the library. It's long! Part of it could have been cut for in my opinion. I don't see how it related to Henry, sure it was baseball but I don't want to hear all baseball statistics for that time period. Just what matters. There just seemed to be too much of it. Just give the important ones. Rtc

  • Nathan
    2018-12-02 19:38

    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 subject remains distant, so far out of reach on a pedestal that we never engage with his story. One almost feels Aaron's resentment at being scrutinized, even at this distance. The detachment of the text is thus a major tradeoff: we sense the reserve of Aaron himself, but we never get to know him beyond the usual hard-knock life story, the flash of his wrists and the home-run record. A letdown, not all (or even mostly) Bryant's fault, but a letdown nonetheless.

  • Carol Storm
    2018-11-12 15:35

    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. But Howard Bryant is not the man to tell you so. This book is long and dull. You learn nothing about Henry Aaron's real personality. You get a lot of black history, but no insight into how it formed this one individual's character. Bryant keeps saying things like, "Henry wanted change, and he was angry about how America was. But just because he felt things deeply doesn't mean he was prepared to speak out." That's fine for an ordinary guy. But if you're trying to sell Henry Aaron as a hero (the last hero, no less) you've just got to come up with something out of the ordinary for proof. (Aside from hitting 755 homeruns, that is.) Howard Bryant just can't do it. So he keeps apologizing, over and over, making Hank look smaller and smaller as the book drags on for hundreds of pages. To make matters worse, Bryant keeps bringing up two other black baseball legends, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. Every time Bryant describes Jackie in action, whether defying whites off the field or on, the book comes to life. This author has a great book in him all right -- but he needs a subject he genuinely admires. That would be Jackie, not Hank. As for Willie Mays, it gets even stranger. Apparently Willie Mays beat Henry Aaron up, or stole his lunch money, or dissed him in some mysterious, unstated way. Now Henry Aaron hates Willie. But we never really find out why. Howard Bryant just goes out of the way to echo Aaron, that Willie is mean, selfish, a two-faced jerk, whatever. A little quote or two from Willie might have been nice. Or from Willie's family. Or from Tallullah Bankhead!Altogether, this was such a tedious, badly written book that it really made me want to read Henry Aaron's autobiography, I HAD A HAMMER. Because it had to be better than this.

  • Brad Hodges
    2018-11-25 22:30

    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 Aaron (those who knew him never called him Hank), was from Mobile, Alabama. He had little formal baseball training, but despite that he dreamed of being a pro player. He didn't even play high school ball, instead honing his skills by hitting bottle caps with sticks. He signed with the Negro Leagues team the Indianapolis Clowns, and thus, before he retired in 1976, was the last active Major Leaguer who had played in those leagues.Aaron was the first black player in the notoriously intolerant South Atlantic, or Sally, League, where he played for Jacksonville. He was such a good hitter that it was hard to keep him on the farm, and he ended up on the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.Bryant covers those early years closely. The Braves, who had just moved over from Boston, were starting to form a good nucleus. I was interested to read how teams were shaking the dust and contemplating movement. The St. Louis Cardinals thought about moving to Houston (!), and Bill Veeck of the Browns wanted to move to Milwaukee, but ended going to Baltimore. If the Braves' ownership had hung on, they might have ended up staying in Boston and the Red Sox would have moved, as the latter would start on a several-year period of doldrums. Imagine how baseball would be different today without the Red Sox in Boston!The Braves would end up in the World Series in 1957 and 1958, both times playing the Yankees. In '57 Aaron was MVP and they won, in '58 they would be one of the few teams that would blow a 3-1 game lead.As the book goes on after that, though, the tone shifts from a seasonal diary to a more general approach to the man. The Braves, who would move to Atlanta in 1966, would go to the postseason only once more while Aaron was on the team (in 1969). Instead, Bryant focuses on Aaron's place in baseball history, and the most elusive subject of all--Aaron himself.Bryant was able to interview Aaron for the book but he is the most incomplete character of the story. Bryant, in fact, goes off on tangents that at times made me forget the main subject of the book, particularly a chapter that is more about Jackie Robinson than Aaron. The truth appears to be that Aaron was a closed figure to most of the world, and very few people got to know him. After his career ended, many thought he was bitter or angry. He would be forever compared to Willie Mays, and Aaron always thought he was a better hitter.The chapter detailing his chase of Ruth is terrific. Aaron snuck up on the record--it was thought Mays had the best chance, but tailed off at the end of his career. It was only after Aaron passed the 500-homer mark that people started taking him seriously. In 1973, at 39 years old, he hit 40 homers and ended the season one shy of Ruth. Death threats had already started pouring in, and he had his own security detail. On the first day of the 1974 season, in his first at bat, Aaron hit number 714 off of Jack Billingham in Cincinnati. The Braves' management, fearful he would set the record on the road, ordered manager Eddie Matthews to leave him on the bench, which prompted the ire of commissioner Bowie Kuhn (Aaron would have a long-time enmity for Kuhn).But on that Monday night in Atlanta three days later Aaron did set the record at home. Bryant chooses to quote Vin Scully's eloquent call of the moment: "It is over. And for the first time in a long time that poker face of Aaron shows the tremendous relief...What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron."Of course, underlying the Aaron story is what Philip Roth called the "human stain," race. Aaron battled racism, as did all black players in those days, when they couldn't stay in the same hotels that their white teammates stayed in. Aaron, who today is 77 years old, covered the period from when blacks couldn't play in the big leagues to when the stadium in Mobile, in which he wasn't allowed to attend or to play, now bears his name. It is an American story, and no matter how often it is told is resonates with the courage of those who defied the odds and achieved greatness.Bryant ends the book with the spot Aaron was put in with regard to Barry Bonds breaking his record. It was a no-win situation--if Aaron showed any petulance, it would be seen as sour grapes, but to embrace it would have been a denial of Bonds' obvious cheating (Aaron hated cheating--Gaylord Perry and his spitball was a long-time nemesis). Aaron had no love for Bonds, and would not travel around with him as he passed milestones, but did finally tape a congratulatory message for him on the night Bonds hit home run 756.The book, which is at times as serious as an autopsy, is well-written but occasionally sloppily copy edited. In one sentence, two different dates are listed for Aaron's second marriage. Bryant is thorough, but he has the uphill battle of trying to decipher a man who will not be solved. I think this passage says it best: "At virtually every major stage in Henry Aaron's professional life, a familiar pattern would develop, predictable as a 3-0 fastball: He would excel on the field and somehow become wounded off of it, slowly burning at yet another personal slight. It was only after he'd walked out the door, embarking on the next chapter of his life, that he would be rediscovered, the people he'd left behind realizing, too late, that the world without him seemed just a bit simpler. The reassessment would always be the same: Henry Aaron was a treasure after all. He carried himself with such dignity! And the people who wanted to celebrate him anew and be close to him and tell him how much he had touched them would always wonder why he appeared to live at a certain remove, and why he did not seem particularly overjoyed by their sudden and heartfelt acknowledgment."In Tiger Stadium one day in 1975 or 1976 I had the chance to see Henry Aaron in person, while he played for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he hit a home run. The Tigers won the game, but I think I was more thrilled about seeing a bit of history.

  • Jj Burch
    2018-11-25 18:34

    Really enjoyed this book! Great for history fans and baseball fans. If you are not into baseball, I would pass. But as a baseball fan and Milwaukee native, I loved this!

  • Ben
    2018-11-21 21:37

    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 dumb black country rube. So he kept to himself, and the media favored Willie, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, and the rest of the "second wave" African-American baseball players. His reticence and mild sarcasm was interpreted as aloofness, ingratitude, and smug superiority. Then, 20 years after he finally breaks Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the steroid era makes a mockery of the concept of celebrating home run volume - first, in the McGwire/Sosa race, then as juiced players continue to shatter previous season records, culminating in Barry Bonds, Willie Mays' godson, seizing Henry's crown in 2007 and leaving us with a collective bad taste in our mouth.Henry may not have been the flashiest personality, but he deserves to be celebrated for his accomplishments. And this book is just as interesting as any I've read on Ruth, Ali, or McEnroe.

  • Jeremy
    2018-12-05 21:33

    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 civil rights movement and segregation, as well as to see the friendships and animosities in the Braves' clubhouse. Also illuminating to see how Atlanta embraced the Braves and how Aaron was a figurehead of the new era of baseball: The first black superstar playing on the first Southern baseball team.And I never thought about it, but he is sort of the last hero. Aaron was the last of his generation, the last truly great player from the golden age of baseball.

  • William
    2018-11-15 19:38

    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 in particular. Hank Aaron, whose record setting home run came on a pitch by the Uncle of one of my friends, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente are all featured in the book and are athletes that shaped my childhood. The book unravels Henry's stoic personality and exposes the dignity and humility present in this 'last hero' that is absent in so many of today's athletes.

  • Trey Mustian
    2018-12-03 15:34

    There are books that do a better job of recounting Henry Aaron's brilliant baseball career but the strength of this book is its exposition of how our society shaped Henry Aaron and how he, in turn , profoundly affected our society. The book does an excellent job of portraying the times in which he grew up, rise to prominence as one of the first African American baseball superstars and how he spent his years after playing baseball still impacting people's lives. It is a great complement to a book such as Aaron's autobiography " I Had A Hammer".

  • Alan Kaplan
    2018-11-20 20:28

    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.

  • Rebecca
    2018-11-24 16:29

    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.

  • Stephanie Moran
    2018-11-12 19:35

    FINALLY! I feel like this book took me much to long to read - mostly because I just wasn't a fan of the writing - Bryant just didn't make me feel excited about reading his book.Let me make a full disclosure - I made a challenge to myself - to read all the biographies in my library. As I walked down the aisle to the beginning, I saw alot of political names.. I was dreading coming to those names. I got to the beginning and found this book - Henry Aaron. I was not happy, because if there is one sport I care nothing about, it's baseball. And, this book is 600 pages about one baseball player. After finishing this book, I am more appreciative of learning about who Henry Aaron was as a person and a player than I am of actually reading this book. I felt that the author sometimes went on and on about other players, sometimes there was no real connection made by the author or myself, as the reader, to Aaron. Also, I hated the play by plays of certain games - but that could be more because I am not a sports person than anything. The last thing that really got under my skin, was the flashbacks. Bryant would fully describe something and then flashback to an earlier time and describe something in detail. I don't understand why he did that - sometimes it confused me because it invovled player or important people and as an outsider, I really didn't know who they were. So all in all - I felt this book would have been more impactful if the author stayed completely on topic - Henry Aaron - and stopped trying to be overly fancy with writiing a biography.

  • Tim Basuino
    2018-11-17 16:51

    While Barry Bonds was pursing the all-time home run record, we of course were treated to lifetime perspectives of Henry Aaron. I’d been casually aware of Aaron’s heroics, being a lifetime fan of baseball and its various rich databases (it didn’t hurt that, until the debut of David Aardsma, Henry ranked first alphabetically), but hadn’t gotten much of a sense as to what the man was about. Hence, when I saw this book available at a reasonable price, I eagerly picked it up.By and large, this is a good read (certainly, it didn’t take me but ten calendar days to complete). Whether it sheds any true light on Aaron is another matter entirely, although to be fair, he didn’t pander to the general press as say Cal Ripken Jr. or Willie Mays. One gets a sense as to the injustices Henry faced (not the least of which was being given the moniker ‘Hank’), and one also gets the feeling that he doesn’t care too much for those perceived as cheating to enhance their statistics (his love for Ken Griffey Jr. was a rare touching moment through the book).So, yeah, it’s a Henry Aaron biography, for which it’s clear that Bryant, while enjoying the subject, had a bit of trouble learning anything new about him. I do wish the editing were a bit better – items get repeated often, sometimes within a matter of a page or two – really, I only needed to learn about what a mediocre pitcher Herm Wehmeier was once. So next time, hire a better editor!

  • Peter
    2018-11-16 17:38

    Another great book about one of the game's greatest. It really does delve into what the author thinks what makes Henry Aaron the man he is. He distinguishes between Hank and Henry. Hank the public baseball play who broke the unbreakable record, and Henry, the introverted man who came from the challenges of of being black in the 1930's 1940's United States. If you love baseball and love a hero, this book is for you.

  • Michael Dixon
    2018-11-18 23:28

    A tremendously well written history of the last 100 years, of social change, and of course baseball. Tracing the Aaron family through the social changes of the 1900s. The unique role that Hank played in integrating the game, as it evolved from an east coast only sport into a nationwide business with all of the influences of tv, demographics, and the steroid era.

  • Lane
    2018-11-14 18:31

    A good biography of Aaron, his baseball career and life. A good blend of his baseball life and his life outside baseball.

  • Chuck
    2018-11-12 22:46

    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 Aaron," aw he was known in the media. Therein lives the thesis of the book--that Henry Aaron had two personae, the baseball player "hank" and the man, Henry. Also of note is that there is much more to Aaron, both as a player and as a man, than the home run record. Bryant does this brilliantly.Although there is an element of hagiography to the book, as if Bryant is canonizing 'the last hero,' the case is brilliantly made about Henry Aaron's transcendence as a player. All timeleading number of hits in the National League, most runs scored, and so on. The list of accomplishments is so great it is almost boring . . . and that is the key to understanding what was truly amazing about him; he was so good for so long, it's almost unbelievable. As interesting as the baseball part was, the life story being told as the baseball narrative develops. The segregated Alabama in which he grew up, moving to Milwaukee, North of the Mason Dixon line, where segregation was kept, by custom, as strongly as it was kept by the law in the South. We see the difference between the way his life was as the last big star to come up through the Negro League system, and his horror when, after acheiveing some degre of safety and community in Milwaukee, he is told his team is being moved to, of all places, Atlanta, in the segregated South, the epicenter of the Civil rights movement.He did not want to go. We also learn how a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. met with him privately and helped him come to to the decision to go ahead and move his family to Atlanta after all. And we see the cities surprising embrace of him, proof that, slow as it might have been, the South was changing. The life after baseball was interesting, too. After spending the final two years of his career back in Milwaukee with a new team, we see Aaron's surprising decision to return to Atlanta and the way he slowly was able to build a series of businesses that brought him the wealth that eluded him as a player. IN addition, we see the way the post-baseball Aaron was able to do what he hungered for most--to become a man able to positively able to influence the lives of others beyond the realm of sport. Henry Aaron was and is an estimable man, and Howard Bryant does s good job both of chronicling his life and the time in which he lived.The only reservation I have about the book is Bryant's seeming need to push Henry Aaron's stature above that of Willie Mays. Companions between the two were natural--both came from Alabama, both came up through the Negro Leagues, and both started out their careers with teams that left New York. But, in his need to promote Aaron, Bryant feels the need to denigrate Mays, even though Aaron himself always spoke respectfully of Mays.Bryant would say that this was reflective of Aaron's carefulness to avoid needless controversy, and of his genius of promoting change for working within a system rather than outside of it. But I think it instructive that, although Henry Aaron never spoke ill of Willie Mays,Howard Bryant sure did. this bothers me in tow ways. First, both are transcendent superstars, men whose talent fueled my imagination in my childhood. I admired both, and never felt the need to be an either/or . . . I remember Willie Mays' breathtaking defense and the way Aaron stood in the batter's box. I think this the jabs taken at Aaron do demean the book.This is really too bad, because, despite this flaw, Bryant's book is transcendentally good. I'm reading Hersch's biography of Willie Mays now (it was a Baseball Biography Father's Day, in case you are wondering), and it dawns on me that, as careful as Hersch is, Bryant, writing as a black male American, can offer some thoughtful analysis that Hersch, a white writer, could not credibly make. It took reading a really good book about Willie Mays to help me appreciate how good Bryant's book is.Biography, no matter how well written, is rarely a compelling, O my God, I have to finish this book kind of reading experience. The Last Hero is. Time well spent, even if you're not a baseball fan.

  • Barney
    2018-12-05 16:41

    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, every year of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations combined. This book is about much more than baseball, however, and presents the achievements of Aaron in historical context. Much is made of the fact that the man who broke Babe Ruth's record was the last active major leaguer who had played in the Negro Leagues. Howard Bryant does a wonderful job in fleshing out exactly what this trivial detail means. Aaron himself said "Hate mail and home runs, that's all people want to know about." Not that Aaron is the first African American owner of a BMW dealership in the U.S. Not that Aaron was called "instrumental" by President Clinton after his win in the Georgia Democratic primary in 1992. Not that Aaron integrated a neighborhood of Milwaukee for the simple reason he was "the" Henry Aaron. He also was one of the first handful of black players in the South Atlantic (or Sally) League. In the early 1950s, playing in front of segregated crowds at the age of 18 and 19 in places known for intense racism at that time (Macon GA, Jacksonville, FL), Aaron produced despite abuse. One story in the book drives this home. After an extra inning victory in which Aaron and Puerto Rican teammate Felix Mantilla scored four runs and banged out 7 hits, a man chased after them in the parking lot. When the smiling ballplayers turned around, the man said "Tell you what. You niggers played one hell of a game." Compliment, yes. But this was the hidden burden for Aaron and African Americans in the south, and this is where the biography really shines. It highlights the day to day, matter-of-fact racism that is far too often overlooked. When the Braves left Milwaukee and moved to Atlanta, the large questions for Aaron, Dusty Baker and other black players was will seating be segregated at the stadium? Would they be allowed to buy houses in the suburbs, something they could do in Milwaukee (well, within reason.) Aaron's wife was unhappy about the move. Aaron is never thought of as a "civil rights" leader, but in his consistently excellent way, he was. Much like Hank Greenberg in the 1930s (a Jew hitting home runs against Hitler) Aaron was hitting them against the remnants of Jim Crow. When he spoke out, he was labeled (as Jackie Robinson was back in the 1950s) "angry". Yes, Aaron received hate mail in the months leading up to his record setting home run. Yes, he received death threats. I had heard Milo Hamilton's call of HR #715 many times, but I have never heard Dodger's announcer Vin Scully's call,which is a centerpiece of the text. After waiting some 15 seconds for the crowd noise to subside, Scully said in part "It's over...What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol."Of course that all-time baseball idol was white, playing in a segregated league.As Dusty Baker put it, the reason for all those death threats was that "Henry was taking away a record from them and giving it to us." I could not agree more. This text, while filled with excellent baseball, is an exemplary piece of cultural and baseball history. With any biography, a reader should walk away with a new respect or understanding for the subject. With Bryant's text, I have come away with both for Henry Aaron.

  • Jeff
    2018-11-17 22:28

    Audiobook. Very Interesting listen.

  • Wingedbeaver
    2018-11-13 23:50

    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 work he displayed on the field every game he played. So even though he has a series of stats that even the "greatest" can't hold a candle to, Aaron never seems to climb much higher then 5 or 6 on anyone's greatest baseball player list. I'm sure there is a group of sabermetric nerds somewhere that would love to even take the importance of those stats away from him. He is currently 4th in career runs, 3rd in hits, 10th in doubles, 2nd in home runs (with a huge asterisk next to the guy at number one), and 1st in RBI, all numbers bigger then the men listed above him. The thing is, there is more to the story of Hank Aaron then a list of numbers compiled on a baseball diamond and because he never gets the attention the big names get the rest of the story seems to get lost as well. Which is why Howard Bryant's The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron is an important book for baseball history. Bryant isn't able to capture the style and grace of Aaron on the field and does very little to argue Aaron was better then his contemporaries other then to say he played with a workman's attitude and to list the numbers I've listed above. Aaron fans must have come to realization by this point that their hero is never going to get attention he deserves. But what Bryant does a wonderful job of doing is paint a detailed picture of the Aaron we never saw on the field and the struggles he faced through out his life. He was a man constantly put between a rock and a hard place, who never seemed to be in a situation where there was a right thing to say or a proper way to act, yet looking back he was always able to handle things with a grace few important American figures could. Bryant talks about Aaron breaking the color barrier in the Florida minor leagues, about him being the key to Atlanta being seen as a progressive Southern city, about conceding his most prized record to a man who went against everything Henry professed as a ball player. These are all stories that will be lost to tales of Jackie Robinson opening the door for black players, pictures of Willy Mays slowing down so he could catch a ball over his shoulder in the World Series, and arguments about the legality of Barry Bonds drug use. Yet, Bryant has done what he could to keep them in perpetuity by elegantly putting them into print. If you're looking for a wonderfully written book about baseball, this isn't it. Bryant's description of the on-field happenings in Aaron's career is lacking and uninspired. But what Bryant does accomplish is drawing a fair and encompassing portrait of a man history has not been kind to. It isn't all praise, he uncovers the warts along with the awards making it the complete story of arguably the games greatest player.

  • Alex
    2018-12-10 16:35

    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 story of American racial and cultural integration (and commercialization).Henry Aaron, a poor boy and a poor student from the racist hellhole that was Alabama at midcentury, gambled his future early on his baseball prowess and won big, quickly becoming one of the premier players in MLB and eventually one of the greatest of all time. Respect for him as a man, as a student of the game, as anything other than a luck carrier of the raw animal physical talent to which black athletes' skills are still attributed today, took decades to arrive. Aaron, less of an overt crusader than Robbinson and far less of an attention seeker than most athletes with a fraction of his importance, is still something of a mystery.The story ends where the title begins, with baseball in terminal moral decline (even as the financial picture grows ever better) because the next generation of players and the businessmen who promote and profit from them are so thoroughly compromised by steroid abuse and complicity. Although Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds went on to break Aaron's homerun record, as Aaron had broken Ruth's from an even earlier era of the game, everyone knows they cheated and that their triumph owed as much to pharmaceutical ingenuity as to the sort of natural skill and mental and physical dedication that powered Aaron. But while nostalgic for the era, midcentury, before drugs so thoroughly ruined the integrity of the game, Bryant does not shirk from pointing out the racism within and exogenous to the world of baseball, exploitation of players by management, stupidity in so many things and crass commercialism of Aaron's era. The Braves' betrayal of their loyal Milwaukee fans (and practically literal selling-down-the-river of Aaron and the other black players) is there, as are the separate and unequal circumstances of the white and black players whenever the game wasn't actually being played. And neither is Henry Aaron held up as without flaws and contradictions. But throughout it all, Bryant brings Aaron to life as a great player and a great example of the American Dream. I listened to the audiobook. Dominic Hoffman narrates very well, with a calm but expressive voice and great pacing. Those, like myself, who don't follow sports may not understand all the vocabulary but this is never an impediment to understanding the story.

  • Jason
    2018-11-23 20:38

    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 the 1950s. After that, not so much detail is given year-by-year, but instead the focus becomes the Braves' move from Milwaukee to Atlanta, and then as the chronicle moves into the 1970s, the recognition of Aaron as not only one of the game's best players, but the one man who would challenge, and eventually overtake Ruth. Then comes the unamicable departure from the Braves, returning to Milwaukee to play two washed-up seasons for the AL Brewers. From there the reader fast-forwards to the 21st century, where the now elder statesman is faced with the no-win situation of the reviled Barry Bonds chasing and breaking his record. Bryant's treatment of Aaron largely justifies, in my view, Aaron's ongoing reticence with the media; often portrayed as distant, cold, aloof with those who chronicled his career or sought his public opinion, Aaron had good reasons to act this way. His perception of and activism against racism, first in American society and secondarily in the the game he loved, was informed by the deeply segregated youth he experienced in Alabama. While Aaron's struggles will never be so famous as those of the singular pioneer, Jackie Robinson, they were in many ways no less severe. Robinson never, in the minor or major leagues, had to play in the Deep South. And he never chased the hallowed record of a white man from the pre-integration era. While playing Aaron's most notable and equivalent contemporary was Willie Mays, but Mays has always projected a comical public persona, and the fact that he was THE Willie Mays meant that he got concessions everywhere in the nation that common African American men, and even Aaron himself in some instances, could not enjoy.If you are a fan of baseball history in general, and Aaron and/or the Braves more specifically, The Last Hero is a highly informative and worthwhile read.

  • Matt Simmons
    2018-11-12 18:46

    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 and sound tinny--he's not Roger Angell in that.But, but. What Bryant does well, he does very well: Aaron comes alive as a man made more mythic by the reality of his life. Bryant shows us that Henry and Hank are two different men, one merely a construct. The real Aaron, Henry, is, in his quiet fury, near-hubristic pride, kindness, jealousy--well, he's immensely human, he's immensely American, and he is, at the end of the day, heroic indeed. Bryant does two things especially well to show this--his illustration of the Aaron/Mays rivalry (Mays comes off as a jerk, to be honest), and his presentation of Aaron as an underappreciated Civil Rights figure.I think that's really, perhaps, what the book is: it's a Civil Rights narrative. Henry Aaron is a Civil Rights figure who happened to play baseball, just as much as Robinson. But Bryant shows why Aaron was qualitatively different from Robinson as a Civil Rights figure, and goes a long way towards explaining why this difference existed, why Aaron likely was never thought of as a Civil Rights figure, and why he should be. When Bryant talks about Aaron as a man, as a hero, as a legend, he writes beautifully. Despite being about 150 or so pages too long, with too much time spent on unnecessary asides about the history of the game (is every 'visionary' owner or baseball executive really that noteworthy) I leave this feeling like I've just read a hagiography; but, in this case, the person being profiled has to have such a thing written for him. As Bryant shows him, hagiography is the only genre appropriate to an examination of Henry Aaron's life. Flawed, but magnificient, too--and the latter overshadows the former in the end.

  • Bob
    2018-11-16 22:30

    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 Henry Aaron was and is.Born in Mobile, Alabama, Aaron grew up in a much different setting for African-American from other stars like Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe. Aaron was immediately branded as a simple country boy, who had a funny swing, and didn't seem to try very hard.Aaron's Southern upbringing is continually brought up by Howard Bryant, whose previous book, "Juicing the Game" examined steroid use in baseball. Prior to that, Bryant wrote "Shut Out" a story about the Boston Red Sox shameful record on signing black players.Bryant almost manages to paint a complete portrait of Aaron's life and his place in the civil rights movement (which Aaron believed in strongly, although he was not perceived as being outspoken on the topic) to Aaron's disappointment at seeing Barry Bonds break his home run record.The only part that Bryant didn't address was whether or not Aaron used performance-enhancing drugs (namely amphetamines) during his playing career. Greenies (which were mentioned as being available in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse like they were in a candy jar) were the drug of choice in the 1960s and 1970s. However, players from that era either do not mention them or do not feel that they gained an advantage from them.

  • Andy Miller
    2018-11-19 16:49

    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 and started his career in the height of segregation. The race issues and their impact of course continued, for example during spring training Aaron's wife could not sit with the white wives and the social life was limited. The analysis here was great.It's also a great story of his rivalry with Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, his two World Series against the Yankees(whose dynasty stopped largely because the Yankees didn't accept Black players as readily as National League teams) and I loved the suspense of various pennant racesA great chapter on his passing Babe Ruth as the all time home run champion and the pressure he faced during the chase. And the class and dignity in which Henry Aaron handled the travesty of Barry Bonds "breaking" Henry Aaron's home run record. The latter part of the book also outlines Aaron's success in business and in community involvement.I finished the book with an understanding of the dignity and integrity in Henry Aaron's life, I recommend it

  • Tom Gase
    2018-11-24 19:50

    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 wanted to learn more about such as the 1956,57 and 58 teams in Milwaukee, why the Braves left Milwaukee and Aaron's reaction to that, the 1969 season for Aaron and the Braves, and of course his 1973 and 1974 seasons, the later being the one when he broke the all-time home run record. In this book, Bryant doesn't go heavily into Aaron's upbringing in Alabama and he doesn't dive into the horrible nasty letters Aaron received when attempting to break the home run record. As a bonus, the book had a few chapters, but not too much, on his retirement and what he thought about Barry Bonds breaking his record. A very well-written, well-researched good read. I recommend to any baseball fan, even if you read his other book.

  • Lisa
    2018-11-11 16:30

    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.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 all of that and shows how it effected Aaron and other players.As harsh and ignorant as the racist actions of some were, I do believe that sports have led the way in breaking down racial barriers. Unfortunately for those that hit the barriers and try to climb over them, as Aaron did, chronic unfair treatment can lead to soured attitudes.

  • Neill Goltz
    2018-11-16 18:50

    Hammerin’ Hank was a boyhood hero from my days of playing unsupervised neighborhood ball all summers at “Dale Hall” (officially Dill Hill but mispronounced by all), catcher for our organized teams in Fargos’ “Roger Maris League”, and Strato-o-matic table-top baseball all winter at our neighborhood club, “The Game Room”.A claim to fame for me is that Roger Maris and I both played football at Shanley High School for the legendary Sid Cichy - at least 15 years apart (and with a huge talent differential…).I mention this all by way of the fact that I honor both Roger’s single season record for homeruns of “61 in ‘61” and Hank’s lifetime count, most of which occurred during those halcyon days of my youth in Fargo, The breaking of both records by McGuire, Bonds, Sosa, et al, despite the undisputed use of steroids, is a joke.So it is with great enthusiasm that I endorse this terrific biography of “The Hammer”. It cover not only Henry Aaron’s notable sports career, but also deals with the adversity of the rising out of the poverty in which he was raised in Alabama, the racism of the ‘50s, and dealing with the cheating of the ‘90s as a baseball executive.Good Stuff.

  • Paul Miller
    2018-11-15 19:26

    A must read for Braves fans (it filled in gaps for me about the Milwaukee Braves), but will leave you not sure what to think about Aaron. It's the story of a man blessed with amazing physical talent and character, but apparently limited communication skills, who's lived his entire life through the prism of race. The book indirectly tells the story of being black in America (as a baseball player) from hard core segregation to lack of acceptance by some (death threats over taking Ruth's home run record) to receiving benefits because of his race (he's the first black to own a BMW dealership - it was given to him as the result of Jesse Jackson's protests to BMW). Throughout, Aaron's hasn't been able to communicate/market himself very well (or at all- by choice), leaving critics to say he's just dumb (he was expelled from high school) to apologists saying he's too 'dignified' and wants to be left alone. Sure the truth is somewhere in between. In any case, a very thought provoking historical read for baseball fans.

  • Mark
    2018-12-11 17:21

    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 top of their respective leagues...It gets 5 stars just like Maraniss' When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi...I was broken-hearted when the Braves moved to Atlanta and searched for a replacement team and was interested in the backstory regarding the move...WGN 720 broadcast the Cubbies and as a "clear channel" station reached America's Dairy-land and they became the other team in my about broken-hearted!!!