Hank Aaron telling the story of how he put Richard Nixon on hold after his record-breaking HR is feel-good gold
By now you’ve probably heard: Hank Aaron—baseball legend, American hero, and rightful holder of the MLB’s all-time home run record—passed away on Friday at the age of 86. Along with the passing of Tommy Lasorda and Tom Seaver in the past 12 months, it was yet another gut punch for the baseball world; a loss that can’t possibly be calculated, even on the hyperbole-powered internet.
With every void left in the sports world, however, a glimmer of light remains as we remember—and often discover for the first time—not just the athlete, but the human being behind them. Such was the case with Kobe, unthinkably almost a year ago already, and such is the case with Hammerin’ Hank. Within moments of the news breaking, the airwaves and bandwidths were flooded with tributes to barrier-breaking home run king, but while we watched his iconic 715th dinger again and again, it was this forgotten clip, dug up from an early episode of the David Letterman Show, that really struck a chord.
First things first, putting the President on hold because you’re in left field playing defense moments after hitting the most famous dinger in dinger history is the power move of all power moves. It also highlights where Hank Aaron’s priorities lay throughout his two-decade run of dominance: Baseball first, everything else second. That’s the athlete part we talked about earlier.
But also on display is the human element. Throughout the interview, Aaron smiles knowingly and laughs—a 10/10 laugh by the way, absolutely all-time—as Letterman circles the topic at hand. He’s whip smart, you can just feel it. He knows exactly what's coming and when, and he's patient, taking a couple pitches before finding just the one he’s looking for.
After running up the stadium stairs during a break in play, Aaron hops on the phone with President Richard Nixon, who invites him to White House for a celebratory dinner.
“Fine, Mr. President, thank you very much.” he replies, “When would you like me to be your guest?”
“As soon as possible,” said Nixon.
Aaron, deadpan as he can, then looks Letterman in the eye and says, “Hell, I guess I didn’t get there quick enough.”
That, ladies and gentleman, is the stuff of legend.