SF Giants News

The Home Run Champion

By Stuart Jones

Today is Henry Louis Aaron’s 78th birthday. Most certainly, I and everyone worldwide wish him the happiest of birthdays on this February 5th.

His Hall of Fame career is something you may be well familiar with by now. Getting to go to the All Star Game every year from 1955-1975, receiving MVP votes in every one of those years as well except 1974-1975 and in all but 1974 having an OPS+ better than 100 is pretty remarkable. A very consistent, and a very great, powerful hitter. Not I, nor anyone else should doubt that. However, the Braves’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, David O’Brien decided to wish Hammerin’ Hank a Happy Birthday in this way:

Took me a moment to process this, but “The People’s?” I, like many other people (not just Giants fans), have a problem with this. Mr. O’Brien is going out of his way to say, “Barry Who?” He does continue when somebody asks about the single-season record:

Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, all nobodies to him since he believes steroids quantify something. There are many people that have very invested opinions in all this, but through my own reading, I have found no evidence stating and quantifying how steroids changed the game. Am I glad they’re out of the game? Yes. But, if you cannot tell me what they’ve done, I will have a hard time listening. Wendy Thurm brought up a good point in terms of other things that were around during Aaron’s time:

I don’t know what got Mr. O’Brien feeling so bold today, but I hope this is something he can look back on and say, “Maybe I owe those fans, and Mr. Bonds, an apology.”

I wanted to make sure my facts were straight and I decided to check baseball-reference.com, fangraphs.com and even MLB.com for the latest up-to-date career HR leaders. Just to be sure. Nothing’s changed:

No asterisks, no deleted records, no nothings saying anything to the sort of “People’s Champion.” So, while Mr. O’Brien would probably be correct in saying Hank Aaron is “Atlanta’s HR Champion” or the “HR Champion for players outside of San Francisco,” he is not, as Julian from Giants Nirvana stated, “The actual home run champion.”