Hank Aaron, whose death at 86 was announced on Friday, was the home run king for 33 years. His final total of 755 can be quoted by nearly anyone who follows baseball — it is a number considerably more well known than the actual record, 762, which is held by Barry Bonds. But Aaron’s accomplishments on the field extended far beyond his home run total.
With 3,771 career hits, Aaron trails only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. He had so many hits that if you removed all 755 of his home runs, he would still have 3,016 hits — enough to place him between Rafael Palmeiro and Wade Boggs for 29th place on the career list.
In addition to his 755 career home runs, Aaron is fourth on the career list with 2,174 runs scored.Credit…Harry Harris/Associated Press
Aaron is the career leader in runs batted in with 2,297, a record that it appears will be safe for quite some time. Second place belongs to Babe Ruth, with 2,214, and the active leader, Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels, is 197 short with 2,100. At 41, Pujols appears to have little left in the tank. The same goes for Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers (1,729) and the suspended Met Robinson Cano (1,302). Next on the active list after those three is Edwin Encarnacion, most recently of the Chicago White Sox, who is 37, isn’t signed for 2021 and is more than 1,000 R.B.I. behind Aaron.
Aaron’s record for total bases is even more secure. The statistic, in which a player earns one total base for a single, two for a double and so on, was once a dominant measure of a player’s power. No one in major-league history comes close to touching Aaron, who is, not coincidentally, also the all-time leader in extra-base hits. In addition to Aaron’s 755 home runs, he had 2,294 singles, 624 doubles and 98 triples, giving him 6,856 total bases. Second place belongs to Stan Musial, with 6,134, putting him 722 short — the equivalent of 180 home runs. The active leader is Pujols, with 5,923 — a deficit that is the equivalent of 233 home runs.
While Aaron has just a few career records, his name is a near constant toward the top of batting categories. Among the many statistics in which he currently sits in the top 10: hits (third, 3,771), at-bats (second, 12,364), home runs (second, 755), R.B.I. (first, 2,297), games played (third, 3,298), runs scored (fourth, 2,174), and times on base (seventh, 5,205). He is seventh in Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement formulation with 143.1 and is rated as the second best right fielder, behind Babe Ruth, in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS career evaluation system.
20 in 20
Aaron was as consistent as he was great. He topped 20 home runs a record 20 times in his 23 seasons. In 15 of those seasons he had 30 or more home runs and in eight of those season he had 40 or more. His first 40-homer season (44 in 1957) came 16 seasons before his last one (40 in 1973). He is one of just two players (along with Bonds) to have a 40-homer season after turning 39.
Owing to his longevity, Aaron, who was a competent but unspectacular defensive player, placed well on many career fielding lists. He played the fourth most games in right field (2,174), is ranked eighth in career assists by a right fielder (179) and is 10th in career putouts by an outfielder (5,539).
Aaron had a brief stint in the Negro leagues at the start of his professional career. While statistics from some Negro leagues from 1920 to 1948 are in the process of being applied toward a player’s major-league totals, Aaron’s numbers will not be affected, as he played for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952.
Aaron’s only Most Valuable Player Award came in 1957, when he led the league in home runs (44), R.B.I. (132) and runs scored (118). But he was a mainstay in M.V.P. voting, finishing in the top 10 in 13 seasons.