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Baseball Player Hank Aaron Addresses the House

June 13, 1974
Baseball Player Hank Aaron Addresses the House Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives The reigning home run king of Major League Baseball, Henry “Hank” Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, addressed the U.S. House of Representatives as guest of honor to celebrate Flag Day.
On this date, the reigning home run king of Major League Baseball, Henry “Hank” Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, addressed the U.S. House of Representatives as guest of honor to celebrate Flag Day. Two months earlier, on April 8, Aaron had hit his 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth to become the all-time MLB home run record holder. The House was not slated to be in session on the traditional Flag Day, June 14, so Aaron appeared a day earlier on an off day in the Braves’ schedule. He was the first active professional athlete to address the House. After several Members offered prayers and speeches in honor of Flag Day, Aaron was introduced by Representative Bill Nichols from his home state of Alabama. Members and the packed crowd in the gallery gave Aaron a standing ovation as he rose to speak. Aaron thanked Speaker Carl Albert of Oklahoma and “my Congressman Mr. Andrew Young of Georgia” for the “high honor” of addressing the House. He began by reflecting on the professional similarities between his career in baseball and the life of a Member of Congress, observing that they were both constantly asked, “So what can you do for us next year?” Every spring training, the 20-year veteran said, a young player was trying to take his job. “As a Congressman,” Aaron sympathized, “no matter how many bills you pass, no matter how many committee assignments you hold, come the end of 2 years you still have to prove to your constituents that you can deliver in the next Congress.” Aaron said that he “always had great respect for the Flag and what it symbolizes.” But, he added, it was “more than just merely an inspiration.” Because many baseball stadiums flew the American Flag beyond the outfield fence, Aaron, the league’s home run king, noted that over his long career he was, in fact, “aiming at that Flag in more ways than one.” At the conclusion of his remarks, star-struck legislators shook Aaron’s hand and sought his autograph. For Representative Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell of North Carolina, who pitched for nine seasons in the major leagues, seeing Aaron was something of a reunion. “I gave up two of his homers,” Mizell pointed out. Aaron then had lunch with Speaker Albert before meeting with the press in the Rayburn House Office Building. The following day, “Hammerin’ Hank” was back in Atlanta where he went 2 for 3 with a double and a home run off the legendary Bob Gibson to lead the Braves to a 6 to 1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

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