Posts Tagged ‘icon’

Happy Birthday Hank Aaron

February 8, 2014

Wednesday February 5th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Today is the 80th birthday of one of my all time heroic icons Hank Aaron. Boy does it make me feel old. I’m sure he’s got plenty of aches and pains of his own, but it doesn’t take anything away from the outstanding accomplishments he achieved in his amazing career. He touched the sky.

I still remember watching him hit his 715th home run on April 8th, 1974 against the Dodgers off pitcher Al Downing on a tiny black and white TV set up on an ironing board in my grandparents’ basement. They were watching another program on their own black and white TV, and they were less than thrilled when I interrupted whatever they were watching with my screams of delight.

Gramps was a sports fan so he got it at least a little, but Grandma was really into whatever they were watching and I thought she was going to find a baseball bat and start swinging at me. She’d never liked sports, and thought it was all a big waste of time. It meant absolutely nothing to her.

But what an electric moment that was. Baseball was my life source then, and all anyone talked about at school was when he would break the home run record. It was extra big in Milwaukee as he came up with the Braves in 1954 and played with them until they moved to Atlanta in 1966.

The media in Milwaukee talked about it constantly, as I’m sure they did everywhere else. That was THE baseball record, and I assumed everyone was cheering for him to break it like all of my friends in the neighborhood and I were. To us it was a Milwaukee thing, as he had played there.

I don’t think I found out until years later what a horrible experience it was for him, and all the ugly hate mail he received. I was stunned, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth even today. It’s downright embarrassing that people would behave like that, but obviously they did. It’s a shame.

White people haven’t done much to win me over as a group, even though I was born into their population. Human beings in general don’t thrill me when I hear stories like that, but I don’t see it getting any better anytime soon. Hank Aaron is great regardless of what ethnicity he might be.

From a baseball standpoint, he was the picture of consistency throughout his career. He was an all star 25 times. WOW. That alone is a staggering figure. He also has the most runs batted in of all time. There’s another monster statistic. He had 17 consecutive seasons with 150 or more hits, and his number was retired by two teams. If there was ever a Hall of Fame player, Aaron was it.

When I was in high school, he came to our school to make a speech. I don’t recall what it was for, but my friend Jeff Phelps and I skipped out at lunch and went to buy baseballs to get signed when he showed up. That was the only time I’d ever skipped out of school, but I don’t regret it.

A limousine pulled up in front of Messmer High School that afternoon, and Jeff and I ran out with our fresh white baseballs and pens in hand. There was an entourage with him and everyone was surprised to see us. He signed the two baseballs, and then someone said “OK, no others.”

That’s a memory I won’t forget, and I’ll always be a fan of his accomplishments. I’m sorry he had to endure what he did. Happy birthday Hank Aaron, your greatness is forever appreciated.

To baseball fans of my generation, this was the biggest moment ever.

To baseball fans of my generation, this was the biggest moment ever.

This was the baseball card everyone wanted when I was a kid.

This was the baseball card everyone wanted when I was a kid.

I love this quote.

I love this quote.

Michael Jordan’s Birthday

February 20, 2013

Sunday February 17th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Michael Jordan turned 50 today, but that’s only one of several reasons February 17th has gotten to be a date of uncomfortable significance on my yearly calendar. Today was also the birthday of my grandmother who was born in 1911 and the day my father died in 2007. That’s a lot to digest.

There are so many emotions mixed in with all of that I’m not sure where to start. I have always been a fan of Michael Jordan, partially because I knew he was my age. He was born in 1963 just as I was, but how much more different could any two lives be? Birth year is about all we share.

Can anybody name a person in any walk of life much less an athlete more famous than Michael Jordan? I can’t. That guy is one in a million million, just like Muhammad Ali or Babe Ruth. He’s the singular standard by which an entire sport is measured for generations. How amazing is that?

Other famous athletes were born in 1963 like Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley, but Michael has gone beyond athletics and is pop culture – and worldwide pop culture at that. He’s reached about as high a level as one can get and still qualify as human. After that one becomes a cartoon image.

I heard all kinds of tributes on the radio today about him turning 50, and they made him sound SO old. I used to think 50 was old too, but now I’m there and it feels like I’m just getting started. I was too busy making mistakes until now, but I finally feel like I’m in a position to hit pay dirt.

Then I look at a Michael Jordan and he’s been on top of the top for thirty years. It’s like it was included in his DNA, and it would be difficult for him NOT to be successful. He may not be the red hot icon he once was, but he’s had a super run right up there with Elvis or Michael Jackson.

It’s hard to comprehend someone of that magnitude being born just a few weeks ahead of me, but it’s true. That doesn’t guarantee happiness though. Whitney Houston was also born in 1963 and it didn’t end well for her even though she also attained heights most humans never reach.

Then there’s my father. He was an overwhelming underachiever and waste of sperm no matter when he was born. Nobody celebrated his 50th or any other birthday on radio or anywhere else. It still baffles me why he was so mean spirited and nasty to just about everyone, but now he’s dead and nobody misses him. I surely don’t, but I do wish I could find out what made him that upset.

Michael Jordan at 50 is looked at as a lion hearted champion of a generation and has the rest of his days to do as much or as little as he pleases. He has millions of dollars and a new model wife. If he’s unhappy – and he very well could be – it sure isn’t due to lack of resources. He’s loaded.

My father at 50 hadn’t ventured off the back porch to attempt anything. He was proud that he’d been able to pull down a disability for his bum heart, and he pissed the rest of his life away doing absolutely nothing of significance. As I sneak up on 50 – or as it sneaks up on me – I find myself betwixt the magnificence of Michael and the folly of my father. I have no idea where I’ll end up on the big picture chart of life. I have all I can handle keeping my bills paid. I can’t dwell on this.