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Spring Hill College's Connection with MLB Legend Hank Aaron

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: Hank Aaron Received Honorary Degree from SHC in 1992
Hank Aaron Received Honorary Degree from SHC in 1992

 

Players on SHC’s baseball team are remembering Major League Baseball legend Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron after his passing at age 86 on Jan. 22, 2021.

According to Frankie Timphony, infielder for SHC, the loss of Hank Aaron is a “tragic” and “shocking” event. In addition, the redshirt sophomore highlights the impact Aaron had on the game: “He is still a role model for upcoming players,” he said. For Timphony, it is clear that Hank Aaron changed the sport of baseball and that “his legacy will live on forever.”

SHC pitcher A.J. Fell was “struck and saddened” when he got the news. Aaron was an inspiration to the grad student who came up with his favorite quote from the MLB legend: “Failure is part of success. There’s no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” In Fell’s opinion, this quote is not only important because it applies to the game of baseball, but it also applies to the game of life.

Along with the Mobile community, SHC mourns the passing of a “Hometown Hero.” According to an article on the SHC website by the Office of Marketing and Communications, Aaron was honored for his accomplishments on the baseball field, but his most enduring and rewarding legacy was off the field, in the area of civil rights. He was as much an ambassador for the game as he was for racial equality. He spent 13 years playing professional baseball before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It would then be another year before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- which prohibited racial discrimination in voting -- was signed into law.

Aaron used his baseball career as a platform to champion civil rights. He encouraged more young Black athletes to stay in baseball, and he became the first Black American to hold a senior management position in baseball as a front-office executive with the Atlanta Braves. He supported the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and he founded the Chasing the Dream Foundation to support underprivileged youth with mentoring and financial support.

President George W. Bush awarded Aaron the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his civil rights-focused philanthropy and humanitarian endeavors in 2002. The Baseball Hall of Fame opened a permanent exhibit in 2009 chronicling Aaron's life. But before all of the national accolades, SHC remembered him on the Hill.

Aaron’s first appearance on the Hill was on Nov. 9, 1987, when the college’s Business and Management Division hosted a lecture series. At the time, Aaron was vice president of Planning Development for the Atlanta Braves, the team from which he retired. He spoke in the area then known as the Badger’s Den on campus. His topic was “Affirmative Action in Major League Baseball Management.” At that time, baseball was struggling with the perception of racism in the hiring of managers and front office staff. For Aaron, it was an opportunity to translate his success on the baseball field into influence as a baseball executive.

On May 10, 1992, Aaron was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Spring Hill College during Commencement ceremonies.

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