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The Staggering Greatness of Hank Aaron, by the Numbers

The baseball legend, who died Friday at age 86, leaves a legacy defined by more than just stats. But the numbers themselves are still worth marveling at.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Henry “Hank” Aaron died on Friday, after one of the fullest and most remarkable lives in Major League Baseball history. Aaron was the home run king and the face of a franchise; he was a former Negro Leagues youngster who broke the sport’s most celebrated record amid staggering racism.

Aaron’s legacy extends well beyond the mere facts and figures, but for a player with so many records and sheer statistical marvels, the two are inextricably wrapped. So for no. 44, here are 44 facts and stats to try to encapsulate Aaron’s prodigious career.

  1. Hank Aaron was an All-Star in 21 seasons, the most for any player in MLB history.
  2. He received 25 total All-Star nods because of multiple games in some seasons—also the most ever.
  3. Every season from 1955 through 1973—a span of 19 seasons—Aaron was an All-Star and received MVP votes.
  4. His worst performance at the plate in any of those seasons came in 1955, when a 21-year-old Aaron posted a 141 OPS+, meaning he hit 41 percent better than league average.
  5. For reference, a 141 OPS+ is David Ortiz’s career mark—and that was Aaron’s worst performance over a near-two-decade stretch.
  6. Aaron, of course, is second on the career home run leaderboard with 755 dingers, and his most memorable moment came when he broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing record with no. 715.
  7. Aaron infamously never reached 50 home runs in a season, meaning the likes of Brady Anderson and Greg Vaughn bettered his best single-season total.
  8. Instead, Aaron reached 755 thanks to preternatural consistency and longevity. He hit 40-plus homers eight times. (Only Ruth had more.)
  9. He hit 30-plus homers 15 times. (That’s tied for the most ever, with Alex Rodriguez.)
  10. And he hit 20-plus homers 20 times. (That’s the most ever.)
  11. Even though his home run total is Aaron’s most recognizable accomplishment, he was also an all-around superstar who, if anything, is underrated by the intense focus on his long balls. In various seasons in his career, Aaron led the league in hits, doubles, homers, extra bases, intentional walks, runs, RBI, sacrifice flies, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS.
  12. According to Baseball-Reference’s “gray ink” standard—which gives players points for top-10 finishes in various back-of-the-baseball-card statistics—Aaron is second among all position players, behind only Ty Cobb.
  13. This is perhaps the ultimate Aaron stat: Take away all of his home runs, and he would still be in the 3,000-hit club.
  14. He hit more singles than Wade Boggs.
  15. He hit more doubles than Cal Ripken Jr.
  16. He hit more triples than any current active player.
  17. He stole more bases than Larry Walker.
  18. Aaron is the career leader with 1,477 extra-base hits.
  19. He’s also the career leader in total bases, with 6,856—more than 700 more than second-place Stan Musial. His lead here is massive.
  20. Career home run leader Barry Bonds could have hit 200 more home runs, and he still would have been short of Aaron’s total bases.
  21. Career doubles leader Tris Speaker could have hit 800 more doubles, and he still would have been short of Aaron’s total bases.
  22. Career singles leader Pete Rose could have hit 1,100 more singles, and he still would have been short of Aaron’s total bases.
  23. Aaron drove in 2,297 runs, the most in MLB history.
  24. He scored 2,174 runs, too—tied, fittingly with Ruth, for the fourth-most ever.
  25. Outside the batter’s box, Aaron was also a tremendous fielder. He won three Gold Gloves in a row, and probably would have won more if not for Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, who (rightly) dominated NL outfield voting in that era.
  26. Advanced defensive stats are tenuous before the 21st century, but Aaron stands out nonetheless. According to the Total Zone system, Aaron is one of the 10 best right fielders on record, at 98 career runs above average.
  27. Bill James once wrote of Rickey Henderson, “If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.” The same is true of Aaron, who played well enough and long enough for two Hall-worthy careers. Aaron was worth 73.9 wins above replacement in his 20s, per Baseball-Reference—seventh all time.
  28. He was also worth 66.7 wins above replacement in his 30s—fifth all time.
  29. The only player ahead of him in both decades? Ruth, whose home run record Aaron then broke in his 40s.
  30. Aaron’s career totals are so impressive in large part because of his longevity. As a rookie, Aaron was the fourth-youngest player in the National League at the time.
  31. By the time of his final season, he was the second-oldest in the AL, behind only the great Minnie Miñoso, who appeared in three games that season after a dozen years away from the majors.
  32. Aaron played in three playoff series, during which he posted a .362/.405/.710 slash line. The only players with a higher postseason OPS in as many plate appearances are Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Troy Glaus.
  33. In the 1957 World Series, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs as Milwaukee beat the Yankees in seven games, winning the city’s only World Series trophy.
  34. He is part of yet more fun facts and firsts. In a game in June 1961, Aaron was part of MLB’s first quartet to hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs, along with Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, and Frank Thomas.
  35. Aaron was the first player to reach both Hall-worthy batting thresholds of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
  36. He could run, too: He retired with 240 career steals and was only the third player, after Ken Williams and Mays, to post a 30-30 season.
  37. Hank and Tommie Aaron hold the record for most home runs by two brothers.
  38. Like many fun facts, this one mixes a baseline of truth with a misleading twist. Hank hit 755 of those brotherly home runs; Tommie hit 13.
  39. Of the 68 pitchers Aaron faced most often in his career, he homered at least once off all of them.
  40. That includes standout performances against the best pitchers of his era. He hit 17 home runs—his highest total against any pitcher—off future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale.
  41. He smashed Sandy Koufax to a .362/.431/.647 slash line.
  42. He hit .342/.395/.630 against Steve Carlton.
  43. He struggled more generally against Bob Gibson (.215/.278/.423) but also hit eight home runs off the Cardinals ace, the most Gibson ever allowed to a right-handed hitter.
  44. And finally, let’s wrap with the tale of Tom Hall. The southpaw was a fine MLB pitcher, a 10-year veteran for the Twins, Reds, Mets, and Royals who retired with an above-average ERA. He allowed less than one homer per nine innings in his career, a stellar rate. But Aaron tormented the man. In 1972, Hall faced the 38-year-old Aaron seven times; the Hammer made two outs but also walked twice and hit three home runs. By the next season, Hall had seen enough of the living legend: He faced Aaron three times and walked him all three. The next season after that, they squared off once more—and Hall walked him again. For more than two decades, Aaron punished pitches from future Hall of Famers and journeymen alike, hit after hit after hit with metronomic consistency. There are too many highlights to choose from. Baseball has lost an icon.