This past week one of the true legends passed away. “Hammerin” Hank Aaron was not only a baseball icon, but an influential leader on the topic of equality in our country. He was not just a guy many consider to be baseball’s legitimate all time home run king, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by G. W. Bush. Aaron’s humanitarian efforts and his impact went far beyond the baseball diamond.
As baseball fans know, this past year we lost many more legends of the game. Pitchers Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Don Larsen, and Tom Seaver. Position players Al Kaline, Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, and Bob Watson. And you can never dismiss the immense impact on baseball made by manager Tommy Lasorda (by far the best storyteller I’ve ever heard).
Most of these guys are in Cooperstown, members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a kid, I think I had baseball cards for nearly every one of these players at one point or another. Honestly, this group of players is so incredible, I think Lasorda could pencil me in at shortstop we’d probably win the world series (well, maybe when I as 20 years old, but I digress).
The loss of Hank Aaron drew commentary from not just the folks on SportsCenter. The mainstream media spent more than three days celebrating his life and accomplishments. What came up over and over was his gentle and humble demeanor. While he experienced widespread racism, even from some of his own hometown fans, Aaron just kept doing his job, both on and off the field.
The legacy left behind by Hammerin’ Hank is larger than his life itself. It’s a testament to how great people (athletes or not) understand that if they lead their lives by serving others, the rest takes care of itself. These people also know that their reach goes well beyond their occupation, their money, their connections. Hank Aaron set a high standard for all of us to aspire.
While we are all mere mortals, and most of us don’t have a gift like Hank Aaron with which to use as a social platform, we always have a legacy to leave. For our families. For our companies. For the communities we serve. All we have to do is find the platform with which to leverage and to begin. Or, sort our how to tap into our superpower, we all have one.
As we forge through these uncertain times, and as more of our heroes walk into the sunset, lets make it a focal point of 2021 to enhance our legacy. To find our platform. Use our superpower. Serve others. If we learned anything from Hank Aaron, serve first, and the rest will come.