Hank Aaron highlights racism, past challenges, in accepting honor

Hank Aaron began his MLB career in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves.

Hank Aaron began his MLB career in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Tuesday, April 15, Major League Baseball (MLB) will continue its annual tradition of honoring Jackie Robinson throughout the league. All players will have the option of wearing his league-wide retired number 42 as a way of celebrating Robinson’s contributions to the game. Meanwhile, Henry “Hank” Aaron continues to point to changes that still need to occur in the game and in society.

Hank Aaron was honored in Atlanta as he was celebrated for his 715th home run last Tuesday.

Hank Aaron was honored in Atlanta as he was celebrated for his 715th home run last Tuesday.

Aaron remains in the consciousness of MLB as the 40th anniversary of his record- breaking 715th home run was honored on April, 8. Aaron explained how taxing the mental and emotional toll was during the 1970’s as he was approaching Babe Ruth’s record. Some were bothered by Aaron’s comments about the racism he faced and the racism he still notices in the game of baseball. Aaron made reference to the difference in racism by stating:

“The biggest difference is that back then they had hoods…now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Aaron’s comments were made in reference to the many issues President Obama has faced with Republicans and points to Aaron’s awareness of the continued challenges facing African-Americans and other minorities in this country.

While Aaron is remembered for his 755 career home runs, he also had 3771 hits and was a career .305 hitter.

While Aaron is remembered for his 755 career home runs, he also had 3771 hits and was a career .305 hitter.

This country has seen a great deal of advancements in racial disparities in sports, business, and politics since Aaron’s last MLB season in 1976. With these changes has come an argument by some that this country has moved past the deep bigotry and prejudice that unfortunately is woven into the fabric of this nation. Aaron continues to stand as a firm reminder of struggles many black people have faced and overcome as his baseball achievements may only be surpassed by his civil rights contributions.

Hank Aaron received high accommodations off the field as well, as he was awarded the Presidential  Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Hank Aaron received high accommodations off the field as well, as he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Aaron will always be defined by his mentality of hard work. As he states:

“If a person wants something bad enough, he works very hard for it.”

This approach has not only resulted in a Hall of Fame baseball career, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 2002) and the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP (in 2005). Aaron’s recent comments gave insight from a man who has experienced extreme prejudice while demonstrating prolonged excellence.

Hank Aaron is not only a Hall of Fame baseball player but a life long civil rights activist.

Hank Aaron is not only a Hall of Fame baseball player but a life long civil rights activist.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is a close friend of Aaron’s and worked along his side for years while working towards improving civil rights in this country in the late 1960’s.

“We worked very closely during that period,”  Jackson recalls, demonstrating how long Aaron has dedicated his life’s work to bringing people together.OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Mariano Rivera, exemplary athlete, consummate professional, retires in style

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in front of his newly retired number at his retirement ceremony on Sept. 22 2013 at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera sits in front of his newly retired number at his retirement ceremony on Sept. 22 2013 at Yankee Stadium.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Sunday, September 22, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera was honored by his team in a 50-minute ceremony that included Rivera’s former teammates, coaches, and the rock band Metallica, who serenaded him live with his trademark entry song, “Enter Sandman.” Rivera’s family was on the field with him to celebrate, as were Rachel and Sharon Robinson, the widow and daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The festivities included an unveiling of Rivera’s number that is to be retired by the Yankees at season’s end.

Rivera receives an honorary gift from rock band Metallica during the retirement ceremony.

Rivera receives a gift from rock band Metallica during the retirement ceremony.

The warm feelings that Rivera inspires in many have turned what would normally be a dismal year by Yankee standards into an unforgettable one. The retirement festivities on Sunday represented the pinnacle of Rivera’s retirement tour, a gathering of Yankee legends who came out to show their support and appreciation for an exemplary athlete. And when Rivera addressed the gathering he thanked “the good Lord, the Yankee organization, fans, teammates,” his parents and the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, saying ” I love and miss him.”. Rivera reveled in the love that he was shown by fans, the Yankee organization, family, teammates and friends. For the fans, the tour activities have come to represent the brightest moments in a rather mundane Yankees season this year.

The Yankees have been hampered by injuries to all of their most notable stars, including  team captain Derek Jeter. Alex Rodriguez was also involved in another PED scandal, which has created a stir as he continues to play while appealing a substantial suspension. While the Yankees have struggled on the field, their fiercest rivals, the Boston Red Sox, have soared to the best record in game. On the other hand, the Yankees will likely miss the playoffs, which is more disappointing for its fans, considering this is the first year that Major League Baseball (MLB) has expanded the number playoff participants.

None of these developments have tainted Rivera’s retirement tour. At the beginning of the year, Rivera announced that he would retire at the end of the season. Rivera’s brilliance on the field combined with his stoic, engaging and composed demeanor resulted in such high regard league-wide that Rivera was honored in every stadium he played in this season. Rivera continues to display great humility and grace as he receives gifts from his competitors and his own team.

Rivera stands at Jackie Robinson's retired number in monument park at Yankee Stadium besides Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson and their daughter Sharon Robinson.

Rivera stands at Jackie Robinson’s retired number in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium beside Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson and their daughter Sharon Robinson.

Mariano Rivera exemplifies the role model that parents and the media expect professional athletes to be. The confluence of circumstances that have led to Rivera universally being recognized as the greatest closer of all time are difficult to replicate. Rivera played his entire illustrious career for one of the most revered teams in all of sports while having only one season where he missed significant time due to injury.

There have been no legal concerns or insidious scandal associated with Rivera, one of the most famous New York athletes of all time. Rivera has always carried himself with class and poise while continuing to frustrate opponents on his way to five World Championships and what is expected to be an eventual place of honor in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In an age where an athlete’s legacy can be tarnished by anything from romantic entanglements and legal troubles to merely changing teams, it seems fitting that the last man in the MLB to wear Jackie Robinson’s number 42 would be a trendsetting legend himself —OnPointPress.net.

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and Management training consultant