More than a good baseball player, Hank Aaron was a great man in the eyes of his former teammate Claude Raymond, who was touched by the death of the Baseball Hall of Fame member on Friday.
“When you talk about Hank Aaron, you’re talking about an extraordinary gentleman,” Raymond said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press, just minutes after learning. the death of his former teammate.
Raymond was his teammate from 1961 to 1963 with the Milwaukee Braves, then in Atlanta, from 1967 until he went to Montreal in 1969.
“It has been a privilege to play with him in Milwaukee and Atlanta,” Raymond often repeated during this interview. In my book, he’s the king of home runs at 755, not Barry Bonds at 762. Hank never needed help beating his home runs.
“But more than anything else, this is the man I remember. A reserved guy who didn’t talk much. But when he spoke – never loudly and always alone with you – everyone listened to him, “he added.
But Raymond also remembers the formidable competitor he was.
“He was not just a home team player, but a very complete player. He could steal a goal whenever he wanted, “Raymond said correctly, Aaron had finished with 240 thefts and five seasons with 20 or more stolen goals, including one of 31 in 1963, when he hit 44 homers and produced 130 points. .
“He also had a fantastic arm and was a great defensive outfielder. Many times I would be hit with a ball and head towards the third base because I thought it would be at least a double. When I looked up, Hank was under the bullet to catch it. He was very smart. As a right-hander, you could not ask for better than that. But people talked less about it, because unlike Roberto Clemente, who I do not want to take anything from, for Hank, it always seemed easy, “he recalled.
Raymond has often mentioned that he owed his first Major victory to the Braves’ power hitter.
“We played against the Phillies, and Jack Boldschun, a corkscrew thrower, was at the mound for them. I had just beaten the eighth and the score was a draw on the ninth. Hank will be sitting next to me, “he began.
“” Frenchie, “he says to me, I’m going to hit him, and he’s going to throw me corkscrews. I look bad on two throws in a row, before he throws me a third corkscrew ball. I’ll beat home driving, and we’ll win. In fact, this is what happened. “On the first shot, his turn was so missed that he lost his helmet, as if he had not seen the shot in his life,” said Raymond.
“I was lucky: my first three or four victories, it was him or Eddie Matthews who hit a home run in our last round to give me the victory,” he summed up.
Raymond and Aaron were teammates while racial segregation was still in full swing in the United States. Raymond recalls that in some cities, St. Louis, for example, the team bus would bypass the African-American neighborhoods in the city to release Aaron and the other black and Latin players in the club there.
“We did not see them again until the stadium the next day. I remember there were times when Eddie Matthews, Lew Burdette and others jumped up to tell the driver that we could not leave our teammates in such a place. To us, he was our friend. We never offered to go to the cinema, eat or have a drink with us, ”Quebecer assured.
Without being a close friend, Raymond has always had a cordial relationship with Aaron, even long after retirement.
“I remember one year when I was training with Expos, that we ran into Hank in Florida or Arizona – I can not remember. Pitcher Joey Eischen was with me, and Hank was one of his idols. He asked me if I thought he was. “I was able to get his autograph. I went to introduce him to Hank, who talked to him as if he had known him for a long time,” Raymond said.
“Hank has often told me a sentence that sums up his personality well: ‘I do not want people to remember me as a good player, but as a good person. I think he succeeded, “he concluded.