One of baseball’s greatest players and ambassadors faced the KC Royals late in his career.
Hammerin’ Hank Aaron spent 21 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves before returning to Milwaukee to play his age-41 and 42 seasons with the Brewers in the American League. It was during that stint that Aaron played his only games against the KC Royals.
Due to the Kansas City franchise developing only late in his career, and the fact most people associate him solely with the Braves—and much like players who finished their career with one season in Kansas City—many are not aware Aaron actually competed against the Royals.
Aaron showed glimpses of his incredible 21 straight years of All-Star selections during the 1975 season against the Royals. In 11 games, he slashed .342/.375/.447, smacking a double and a homer along with two walks and no strikeouts in 38 at-bats.
Aaron gave the fans at then-Royals Stadium quite a show his first year in the AL by collecting eight hits in 19 plate appearances, including those two extra-base knocks. The next season was not as kind to Aaron as he only mustered one hit in 14 trips to the plate for a dismal .091 average while in Kansas City.
He did play at Royals Stadium before that, participating in the 1973 All-Star Game. Aaron would also come back as a special guest in 2012 when Kansas City again hosted the mid-season classic.
And although it didn’t happen against the Royals, we can always savor this moment:
Aaron’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum connection
Because he broke into the majors at age 20, many people aren’t aware that Aaron spent time in the Negro Leagues before joining the Braves. He played for the Indianapolis Clowns and had some issues with his batting hand alignment that required correction. As Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick explained to Kansas City’s KCTV5, the future Hall of Famer had his dominant hand configured incorrectly:
"“The fear is that you break your wrist hitting in that manner well Henry Aaron is knocking the cover off the baseball at a highly unorthodox fashion. When he gets to the Clowns, they put the right hand on top and the rest is history.” -kctv5.com"
There lies the greatest connection between the Royals’ hometown and Aaron, other than those handful of at-bats at the end of his career. Aaron was one of many players who made the Negro Leagues the great organization whose history is enshrined in Kansas City.
Aaron arrived only a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier and suffered many of the same prejudices. He stood strong and was not only one of the best players, but also a fabulous person.
Although his time playing against the KC Royals was brief, Aaron’s legacy will remain in the town forever.