CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and former home run king Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was remembered around the country and the world Saturday, a day after he passed away at the age of 86.
Cubs legend Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins pitched against Aaron for 11 years. He shared some memories about the true home run king with CBS 2’s Matt Zahn.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Frost Advisory Along And North Of I-88
“Hank was diligent – very patient at the plate; didn’t swing at bad pitchers. And that’s, I think, a tribute to his ability. He knew the pitchers. He knew who he was going to face – from (Don) Drysdale, Jenkins, (Tom) Seaver, (Don) Sutton, whoever; (Juan) Marichal – he was pretty tolerant when he’d come to the plate, and he was swinging at his own pitch, not one that you were trying to get him out with,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins played two stints with the Cubs, from 1966 to 1973 and 1982 to 1983. He started with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1965 and also played or the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. He talked to Zahn about taking to the pitcher’s mound when he first started out and facing Aaron.
“I came up in ’65 as a call-up – September call-up, and I had to face him in Milwaukee. And that’s a very small stadium – County Stadium – so and him and Eddie Matthews, Joe Torre – there were a few guys. I think I pitched an inning and a third, and Hank was one of the individuals I faced. I got him to fly out in center field, so I consider myself pretty lucky,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins continued: “But to face a guy that you watched play and you idolized, I was really thrilled,” he said. “I truly think that he is still the all-time home-run hitter in baseball. I just think that what he had to go through to get there – he was consistent in hitting 40-plus home runs every season; never did 50, I think everybody knows that. And he just went out and did his job on a daily basis.”
Aaron was also close with another Cubs great, the late Ernie Banks. Aaron apparently kept a note from Banks that said, among other things, “Your kind friendship will mean more to me than any other person in life.”
Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in 1974 with a shot to the left field bullpen at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. When Aaron hit home run number 715, he had been with the Atlanta Braves since his debut in 1954, when the team was located in Milwaukee.READ MORE: Plan For High-Rise Development Has Some Oak Park Residents Fired Up
Aaron received racist death threats as he closed in on Ruth’s record. Nearly 20 years after passing Ruth, he shared some of the letters with Sports Illustrated.
Aaron also told the magazine he wouldn’t sit with his back to a door in restaurants and when he was in public he wouldn’t finish a drink after stepping away from it in case someone put something in it.
“I never finish a drink anywhere, even a glass of water,” Aaron said, “unless I’m right here at home.”
“Hammerin’ Hank” would belt another 40 out of the park for a total of 755 homers before he finished his career in 1976 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Aaron was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982.
The Braves noted Aaron was nine votes short of becoming the Hall of Fame’s first unanimous inductee.
“I gave baseball everything that I had,” Aaron said during a 2014 event marking the 40th anniversary of breaking Ruth’s record. “Everything, every ounce of my ability to play the game I tried to play to make you, the fans, appreciate me more.”
CBS 2’s Matt Zahn and CBSNews.com Senior Editor Alex Sundby contributed to this report.MORE NEWS: ONLY ON 2: Mother Speaks After 7-Year-Old Griffith, Indiana Boy Was Run Over By Car; He Remains Hospitalized
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