Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later

Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later

by Sandy Tolan
     
 
In 1965, when Sandy Tolan was nine, his hero left town. Unlike other Milwaukee Braves fans, Sandy continued to follow Hank Aaron and his teammates, even though they were now seven hundred miles south in Atlanta. In 1973, as Aaron closed in on Babe Ruth's career home run mark, the black slugger received racist hate mail by the ton. Shocked, Sandy wrote his hero a

Overview

In 1965, when Sandy Tolan was nine, his hero left town. Unlike other Milwaukee Braves fans, Sandy continued to follow Hank Aaron and his teammates, even though they were now seven hundred miles south in Atlanta. In 1973, as Aaron closed in on Babe Ruth's career home run mark, the black slugger received racist hate mail by the ton. Shocked, Sandy wrote his hero a letter of support. A few weeks later, Aaron responded. "Dear Sandy," Aaron wrote. "Your letter of support and encouragement meant much more to me than I can adequately express in words."

Twenty-five years later, Tolan embarked on a journey to meet his old hero and to understand, through family, teammates, and civil rights leaders, a legacy of courage and dignity that resonates far beyond the playing field. Me and Hank explores the landscape between a hero's aspirations and the reality of his struggle; between a young fan's wishes and their delivery, a generation later, to a middle-aged man; and between the starkly different ways blacks and whites experience and remember the same events.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1973 baseball's greatest hitter, Hank Aaron, was nearing his greatest moment: surpassing Babe Ruth's 714 career home runs. As a result, Aaron received death threats and hundreds of pounds of hate mail, his daughter needed 24-hour FBI protection at college and his imminent achievement was all but vilified because many whites didn't want to see a black man best the cherished record of an iconic white man. Sixteen at the time and a lifelong fan of Aaron, the white Tolan was appalled at this racism and wrote his hero a letter of support. Aaron replied with a warmhearted letter, setting up the connection that sparked this enlightening memoir and prompted Tolan, a radio producer, to look up his hero in 1998. Tolan first visits Aaron to talk about breaking Ruth's record, then he interviews dozens of others on the same subject, including members of Aaron's family and his own. The result provides not just a chilling foil to the chivalric home run chase between McGuire and Sosa, but also a portrait of race relations from the 1950s until now. For blacks, Aaron's achievement was as significant as Jackie Robinson's crossing of the color line. But, while whites generally remember the well-publicized hatred that stalked Aaron, they have, according to Tolan, ignored his record (which remains undefeated) and made licensing Ruth's image a $3-million-a-year business. The author's sentimental recollections of childhood grow somewhat repetitious, and each chapter has the same tone of disbelieving outrage as Tolan's NPR piece that inspired the book. Still, the work is a worthy complement to Aaron's I Had a Hammer, and a valuable contribution to the civil rights bookshelf. Author tour; 20-city radio satellite tour. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal - Library Journal
When award-winning journalist Tolan was nine years old in 1965, his hometown Milwaukee Braves and beloved hero Hank Aaron moved to Atlanta. Following the Braves on Nashville's WSM radio station, Tolan began an Aaron scrapbook in 1973 as his idol's dethronement of Babe Ruth's all-time home run record became imminent. Learning of the voluminous hate mail and death threats Aaron received, the author wrote a letter to the baseball legend. And in what became a seminal event in his life, the now teenaged Tolan received a personal reply from the superstar. Twenty-five years later, he seeks and receives an audience with the great Aaron, scrapbook and letter in tow. Thus begins this melancholy and bittersweet valentine to baseball, heroes, and the inherent and pervasive racism in the national pastime. Like the classic baseball writings of Roger Angell and David Halberstam, Tolan's story uses baseball as a divining rod for subterranean social ills, and his interviews with Jesse Jackson, Aaron's daughter, Gaile, Andrew Young, commissioner of baseball Bud Selig, and childhood friends are all astute and revelatory. This is a work of singular beauty, whose gentle nostalgia and social gravity are inextricably woven together into a tale told simply in Tolan's gentle and boyish voice. An obligatory acquisition for all sports collections.--Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Cole
n his tribute to Henry Aaron, Sandy Tolan delivers a solid hit. Tolan has decided to make an exploration of American racism as central to his memoir, Me and Hank, as his appreciation of the American pastime... his probing portrait reminds us that while thousands cheered, others fumed. And the cumulative impact of Tolan's documentary-like approach leaves no doubt of the true nature of Aaron's achievement, on the field and off.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A highly personal account of one man's boyhood admiration for Hank Aaron, and a reevaluation of his feelings from adult perspective. As a Milwaukee schoolboy Tolan followed his hometown Braves through seasonal ups and downs and remained loyal even when the franchise moved to Atlanta. By radio he monitored Aaron's pursuit of the career home-run record and learned that the ballplayer had been receiving threats; he wrote a letter of support and received a personally signed letter of thanks in return. Twenty-five years later, as the anniversary of Aaron's achievement approached, Tolan (now a radio producer) used the occasion to examine more closely the role of racism in Aaron's career, in baseball itself, and in American society. He interviewed characters ranging from Aaron's daughter and wife to the street people living outside Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium. He spoke to politicians and civil-rights leaders like Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson, to baseball commissioners, managers, Hall-of-Famers, and fanatics; he traveled to Cooperstown (where he was shocked by the minimal space allotted to Aaron's achievements) and met with the record-holder himself. Tolan uses a loose, peripatetic tone and style; Aaron is never far from the center of the story (which began as an NPR project), but this isn't just about the ballplayer or his achievement. To an extent, it's one long double-edged argument for the primacy of Aaron's achievement as an athlete and a black man, as well as for the deeper understanding of race in American society and history, but Tolan is honest and tenacious without being strident. Reading him is like listening to someone argue a pointyoualready agree on—yet between the personal and the reportorial (and editorial) stretches there are moments of high drama and poignant discovery. Amiable on the surface, tough-minded beneath, with a fan's fervor at the core. Radio satellite tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743500531
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
06/01/2000
Edition description:
Abridged, 2 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.02(h) x 0.78(d)

Meet the Author

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >