With the passing of Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, baseball has lost a true legend and a player who exuded long-term Excellence as well as anyone in the sport’s history. For 23 years he was Excellence and as fellow hall of famer Greg Maddux told us during the first episode of the Magnifying Excellence podcast, doing something great for a long time adds up to Excellence. –By Brian Hurlburt, Host and Founder, Magnifying Excellence Podcast.
“Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone’s list of all-time great players,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “His monumental achievements as a player were surpassed only by his dignity and integrity as a person. Hank symbolized the very best of our game, and his all-around excellence provided Americans and fans across the world with an example to which to aspire. His career demonstrates that a person who goes to work with humility every day can hammer his way into history – and find a way to shine like no other.”
Aaron died of natural causes on Jan. 22, 2021, at the age of 86.
When I spoke with Maddux–another player who embodied long-term Excellence–he was quick to not how impressive consistency can be.
“I think excellence is doing something well for a long period of time,” Maddux shared during his podcast episode. “It turns into excellence, especially in a baseball as a pitcher. All you could do is make a good pitch and you try to make one good pitch one after the other. And if you do it enough times in a row, I think it becomes excellence.”
Maddux would definitely approve of Aaron’s consistent Excellence. Listen to Maddux’ full episode here.
Hammerin’ Hank is on the very short list of the best players in baseball history — he’s in the inner circle of the inner circle of the Hall of Fame — and his greatness was built on consistent Excellence and longevity rather than incredibly high peaks. Aaron had tremendous individual seasons, of course, but there is surprisingly little “black ink” on his baseball card. Consider:
Aaron led his league in homers only four times in 23 seasons.
He led his league in runs batted in only four times as well.
Only three times did Aaron lead his league in OPS.
Despite leading the league in various categories only a handful of times in his career, Aaron is second on the all-time home run list (755) and the all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). He is top 10 all-time in pretty much every meaningful offensive category, and in many cases he is top five all-time.