An Unfitting End: The Final Game of Henry Aaron’s Career
Henry Aaron in the dugout during his final game.
Photo Courtesy Getty Images
Bob Uecker and
Henry Aaron crowded into a vacated storage room in the bowels of
Aaron sighed. He said that he had only become emotional the night before, when he cried at the thought of never playing baseball again. But now, he had a game to play. One last game on a pitiful Brewers team about to finish with the worst record of any team Aaron had ever played on. And Aaron himself was only a shadow of the player he once was. He was posting career lows in nearly every offensive category (although advance stats still show him as slightly better than a league-average hitter) and had only played in 84 games that season. August and September, the dogs days of the season that often grind on older players, had been particularly cruel. Aaron was playing only about twice a week, batting a meager .156 with only three extra base hits. He hadn’t homered since July 20. “After all these years,” He told Uecker, “it boils down to a couple of hours and four at bats.”
he sat in front of his locker before the game, reporters crowded at his feet, some
who had been covering him since he had debuted in
later, Aaron would admit that those “things” had soured long before his final
game. Although he declined to say what had gone wrong, he cited his relationship
with Selig as the reason he would not be returning to the Brewers. “I was on
very bad terms with the owner at the time,” he said in 1987. “I wasn’t going to
be stuck in
than 7,000 were on hand for that afternoon as the Brewers hosted the Tigers.
Shortstop Robin Yount led off for
An appreciative roar emerged from the sparsely populated grandstand as Aaron stood at first base. With a list of accomplishments as long as any living American athlete, Aaron had one more mark on his mind at the moment – sole possession of second place on the all-time runs scored list. He was, at the moment, tied with Babe Ruth at 2174 behind Ty Cobb. But manager Alex Grammas was unaware of the mark and sent infielder Jim Gantner in to pinch run for Aaron. Grammas wanted to see Aaron end his career with a hit. As Aaron walked from the field for the final time, the crowd stood and applauded. Moore and Yount greeted him as he retuned to the dugout. The ovation and handshakes were the only bit of pageantry witnessed that afternoon.
After the game, another Brewers loss, Aaron was reserved as he spoke again for the press. He admitted he had wanted a chance at that last run and perhaps one more time at bat, but refused to make an issue of it. “My career is done with – over with. Let it go at that.” As he undressed and had his usual post-game cigarette (he later said it was the last he would ever smoke), he expressed frustration with his performance as a Brewer. “I’ve been playing on borrowed time the last two years,” he said. “It’s been embarrassing for the kind of career I’ve had to be finishing with a .229 average.”
Asked what he would miss most about playing, Aaron – long weary of the attention the game had brought him – said it was the clubhouse. “[That is] where I had isolation from the outside world. I’ve had the most peaceful moments of my life there.”
the following day’s