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By Robert Byrne

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The normally reserved man began to speak out to reporters. He limited the focus of his comments to baseball, in which he had credibility. He began to push for change when he 53 54 hank aaron talked about segregation in spring training—black and white players still had separate living quarters—and the lack of black managers in the game. Though he made these comments, much of the media were not interested in painting a World Series hero as an outspoken activist, particularly if he was black. Black-interest magazines like Jet and Ebony, however, printed his remarks, and he quietly began to develop a reputation as more than just a shy, humble ballplayer.

Louis Cardinals, before a game in August 1956 in St. Louis. Aaron was leading the league in batting, Moon was second, and Musial was third. 328 average. 314 with 27 home runs, far short of the 51 home runs that Willie Mays put on the board. But Aaron was improving, and so were the Braves. They finished second in the National League that season. Aaron was named the Braves’ 43 44 hank aaron Most Valuable Player and was given a salary of $17,000 for the next year. After the season, he played with Willie Mays’s barnstorming team, which was made up of some of the better black players from the major leagues as well as some stars from the Negro Leagues.

He fell short, though, of the Triple Crown. 351. THE 1957 WORLD SERIES That year, baseball’s most celebrated team, the New York Yankees, won the American League pennant and would meet the Braves in the World Series. It was the big-market Bronx Bombers against the small-town Braves. It was David versus Goliath. 49 50 hank aaron Those pairings, though, were not enough for the sportswriters. They needed a more basic element, a one-on-one matchup that would illustrate the human struggle. Taking the best players from each team, they pitted Aaron against Yankee standout Mickey Mantle.

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