COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Any word that speaks of longevity – such as permanence, durability and endurance – is synonymous with the career of Hank Aaron.
This week 35 years ago – on July 20, 1976 – Aaron hit the final home run, No. 755, of his career, leaving a record that would stand 31 years.
In hitting that home run, "Hammerin' Hank" may have kept a streak alive that may never be surpassed or duplicated. Home run No. 10 on the year extended Aaron's streak to 23 straight seasons of double digit home runs, a span the length of his entire career.
From the age of 20, when he broke into the big leagues with the Milwaukee Braves hitting 13 home runs in his rookie season, to the age of 42 when he hit 10 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron always possessed a powerful swing.
In fact, Aaron only dipped below the 20-home run threshold three times. And those seasons happened to be his first, 22nd and 23rd in the majors. So for 20 straight years, Aaron hit 20 home runs or more. He averaged 36 home runs a season during that 20-year period from 1955-'74.
Although Aaron never challenged Babe Ruth or Roger Maris' single season home run record, his remarkable consistency – and his ability to stay healthy – allowed him to pass the "Sultan of Swat's" on the all-time list.
Only in the final season of his career did Aaron every fail to play in less than 100 games. Being such a consistent and healthy player helped earn him a record 25 elections to All-Star Games.
After breaking Ruth's career home run record in '74 with the Atlanta Braves, Aaron was traded back to where it began in the city of Milwaukee – but this time in the AL for the Brewers.
He was informed of the trade to the Brewers by Bud Selig, the team's owner at the time, while he was in Japan. He had just competed and won in a home run contest against Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh.
Famed sports sociologist Harry Edwards might have summed Aaron up best:
"Baseball cares about the standard of excellence, and that means people will always look to Henry Aaron."
Kevin Stiner was the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum