As every baseball fan knows, Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who died in early 2021, was the perennial All-Star outfielder for the Braves who finally broke Babe Ruth’s hallowed all-time home run record when he clouted his 715th round-tripper in an early-season game. Although Aaron’s lifetime home run mark of 755 was eventually surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007, many fans still consider Aaron the true home run king because of Bonds’ association with banned steroid substances.
Back in 1952, when Aaron was an 18-year-old infielder with “very little baseball experience” beyond sandlots and a few months’ playing time with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, he was scouted by future Hall of Fame manager Billy Southworth. The scouting report on Aaron that Southworth submitted to the Braves read as follows:
To his credit, Southworth recognized Aaron’s talent at that early age (although some might claim Aaron was too obviously talented for any respectable scout to miss), giving the young ballplayer ratings of “good,” “fast,” and “strong” across the board — for everything except power, that is, which Southworth rated only “fair.” At the time, though, Aaron batted cross-handed (i.e., he was a right-handed batter who put his left hand above his right hand on the bat), an attribute that likely diminished his ability to hit for power until he switched to using a “proper” grip in the minor leagues:
Southworth was certainly correct that Aaron was a good prospect with “all around ability,” worthy of a bonus, who would likely start in Class C ball. But he overestimated the amount of time it would take Aaron to become a player of major league caliber. Southworth predicted “four or five years,” but Aaron — converted from a second baseman to an outfielder — made the jump to becoming a starter in the bigs in just two years.
A report submitted by another Braves scout, Dewey S. Griggs, about a month earlier was slightly less superlative but still tagged Aaron as “well put up” and a “definite” prospect. Aaron was faulted for a “tendency to run on his heels” but was termed “very good” in a passage of questionable acceptability to modern readers:
Negro ball players as a whole are front runners in my estimation. When ahead they look very good and very bad when behind. However this boy looks very good and if he can make the plays to his left and right [as a middle infielder] he could be the answer. I feel that he has the ability.