One of the nicest ways to enhance your office walls or man cave is with period magazines (i.e., during playing career) of your favorite sports heroes. This article focuses on baseball’s Home Run King, the great Henry Aaron, whose National League career ran from 1954-1976 and included an MVP award, a World Series ring, and a record 755 home runs. My five personal favorites are highlighted in red.
PART ONE – THE MAINSTREAM SPORTS PRESS
Strangely, Aaron was completely ignored by Sports Illustrated (or was he?–see footnote!) until he had more than 500 home runs and had already established himself as a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Here are the only three Sports Illustrated covers during Hank Aaron’s 23-year career. All are typically available in the $8-15 range, depending on condition.
- August 18, 1969 – Hank Aaron leads Atlanta into its first ever pennant race.
- May 25, 1970 – Hank Aaron becomes the ninth member of baseball’s exclusive 3000 hit club.
- April 15, 1974 – The most iconic SI cover of all time. The Hammer makes history with home run 715.
The premier sports magazine for much of Aaron’s career, Sport noticed Hammerin’ Hank much earlier than SI. Aaron appeared on the cover of Sport a total of five times, the earliest coming as a cameo in 1958. Hank finally took center stage on the cover of Sport in 1962, five years removed from his MVP and World Series ring. As with the SI issues, each of these magazines is generally available in the $8-15 range, depending on condition.
- October 1958 – Bob Turley main cover with Hank Aaron cameo
- July 1962 – Hank Aaron reveals his hitting secrets
- May 1968 – “What It’s Like to be a Neglected Superstar”
- August 1970 – “The Finest Hours of a Quiet Legend”
- May 1974 – Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s career home run record.
In terms of great sports reporting, I give the Sporting News high marks. However, the newspaper style format leaves it off my list of Hank Aaron magazines. While I haven’t done an exhaustive search, I believe these are the issues that feature Hank Aaron on the cover. The April 17, 1957, cover is a particularly fun one if you can find it!
- April 17, 1957 – Opening day, including a dream outfield of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron
- September 24, 1958 – NL batting title contenders
- July 1, 1959 – All-Star voting
- July 20, 1963 – With Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Leon Wagner
- October 12, 1963 – With Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Al Kaline
- April 25, 1964 – With Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn
- July 3, 1965 – Henry “Hank” Aaron
- July 1, 1967 – At bat against Jim Lonborg
- May 23, 1970 – 3000 Hit Club
- July 29, 1972 – All-Star Game issue
- April 20, 1974 – 715 Home Runs
PART TWO – THE BLACK PRESS
JET MAGAZINE Aaron appeared on the cover of Jet magazine ten times during his career, more than on any other magazine. A particularly collectible (but hard to find!) Jet issue is from June 18, 1959, and features “Red Hot Hank.” Perhaps due to lower circulation or due to crossover interest from aficionados of African American history and culture, Aaron’s Jet covers typically sell for slightly more than his SI and Sport covers. With the exception of the hard-to-find 1959 covers, most issues run in the $10-15 range. Meanwhile, the 1959 covers run for about double that.
- April 16, 1959 – A focus on African American stars expected to make an impact on baseball’s pennant races
- June 18, 1959 – “Red Hot Hank” and the possibility of his hitting .400
- September 5, 1968 – “Hank Aaron Blasts Racism in Baseball”
- April 13, 1972 – “Aaron Aims His Bat to Break Ruth’s Record”
- April 19, 1973 – “Baseball Underway for Record-Breaking Season” (with Dick Allen, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, and Billy Williams)
- July 19, 1973 – “Hank Aaron Discusses Racism and His Race for Ruth’s Record”
- August 30, 1973 – “Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s Human Side” (with wife Billye)
- December 13, 1973 – “Hank Aaron: His Honeymoon and His Home Life Today” (with wife Billye)
- April 25, 1974 – “715!”
- August 15, 1974 – “Are Baseball’s Owners Too Racist to Hire a Black Manager?” (with Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Maury Wills, Elston Howard, and Larry Doby)
With its first issue in 1945, Ebony mimicked the size and format of LIFE magazine but focused on topics of particular interest to the African American community. Unlike LIFE, which never featured Aaron during his playing career, Ebony included Aaron on the cover five times, one by himself and four alongside other personalities. Perhaps due to their larger size and higher cover price, Hank Aaron issues of Ebony typically sell from $15-40, depending on condition.
- June 1970 – “Baseball’s $100,000 a Year Superstars”
- June 1971 – “The Last of the Big Bats” (with Willie Mays)
- September 1973 – “Catching Up with the Babe”
- July 1974 – “The Hank Aaron Nobody Knows” (with wife Billye)
- May 1975 – Highest paid black athletes (with Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and O.J. Simpson)
Black Sports did not begin publication until 1971 but still managed as many Hank Aaron covers as SI did through Aaron’s retirement. While low circulation makes each of these issues a tough find, the first two are generally found in the $15-25 range while the third runs from $25-40.
- May/June 1972 – “Baseball’s All & Everything” (shown dodging a brushback pitch)
- September 1973 – “En Route to Immortality”
- June 1974 – “Henry the Great”
Hep Magazine was published from the late 1950s through 1977, tended to focus on racy or risque topics, and was often found in barber shops or beauty parlors–anywhere but in a respectable home. The Hank Aaron feature shown below (“Does Hank Aaron Have a Secret About Sex Pills?”) should give you the basic idea!
PART THREE – OTHER AMERICAN SPORTS MAGAZINES
My focus in this section is on two Hank Aaron covers that pre-date even the April 1959 Jet issue and one that followed shortly after. The first two feature Aaron alongside future Hall of Famers, including one of Hank’s diamond heroes, Stan Musial. The third, for no particular reason, features the Hammer–with a ball about to hit his head–on the cover of a 1963 World Series preview. (The Braves finished sixth in the National League that year, 15 games out of first.)
Each of these magazines can be found in the $15-30 range. Note that Aaron would go on to appear on several other “season preview” or “baseball record book” covers, particularly as he neared or had just surpassed Babe Ruth’s home run record. In general, I consider these titles less collectible and do not detail them here.
- 1958 Baseball Heroes – “Core of a New Dynasty” (with Red Schoendienst)
- 1959 Sports Review – Baseball (with Stan Musial)
- 1963 World Series Illustrated Review
If interested, here is a partial list of other Hank Aaron covers–
- 1960 Baseball’s Best
- June 1960 Baseball Stars
- August 1966 Baseball Digest (cover story but not pictured)
- September 1967 Pro Sports
- August 1968 Sport World
- August 1969 Sport World
- October 1969 Sport World
- June 1970 All-Star Sports
- October 1970 Super Sports
- October 1970 Sport World
- 1971 Super Sports
- 1971 Cord Sportfacts Baseball Report
- May 1971 All-Star Sports
- May 1971 Pro Sports
- July 1971 Baseball Digest
- October 1971 Sport World
- 1972 Action Sports Yearbook – Baseball
- 1972 All-Time Baseball Greats
- June 1972 Sports Today
- Summer 1972 Baseball Extra
- August 1972 Sport World
- September 1972 Super Sports
- 1973 Team Magazine
- 1973 Hall of Fame Baseball
- 1973 Sporting News Baseball Dope Book
- 1973 Cord Sportfacts Baseball Report
- 1974 Dell Baseball
- 1974 Street and Smith’s Baseball Yearbook
- 1974 Famous Slugger Yearbook
- 1974 Cord Sportfacts Baseball News
- 1974 Popular Sports Grand Slam
- Spring 1974 Sports Quarterly – Baseball
- April 1974 Baseball Digest
- July 1974 Pro Sports
- 1975 Great Moments in Sports
PART FOUR – OTHER AMERICAN NON-SPORTS MAGAZINES
These three magazines venture far into the realm of Hank Aaron ephemera, all featuring Aaron on the way to home run immortality. All are relatively easy finds and tend to sell in the $6-$15 range.
- March 1972 – Boys’ Life – official publication of the Boy Scouts of America
- August 13, 1973 – Newsweek – “Chasing the Babe”
- September 1973 – Guideposts – “I Can’t Do It Alone” (magazine with a Christian focus on successful living)
PART FIVE – NON U.S. MAGAZINES
A handful of Spanish language magazines featured Hank Aaron on the cover in the early and mid-1970s. I have generally seen the Mexican magazines (Deporte Color) listed but not sold in the $10 range and the Venezuelan magazines (Sport Grafico) listed but not sold in the $40 range.
PART SIX – AARON’S FIRST SOLO COVER
As I built up my own Hank Aaron collection, I wondered what his very first solo cover was. Initially, I presumed it was the July 1962 issue of Sport before ultimately running across the 1959 “Red Hot Hank” issue of Jet. Close but wrong. Fittingly, Aaron’s first solo cover came during the absolute pinnacle of his greatness, the Fall of 1957. Just 23 years old, Aaron would lead the National League in runs, home runs, total bases, and runs batted in, send Milwaukee to its first World Series with a 12th inning walk-off home run against the Cardinals, bat .393 in seven games to lead the Braves to victory against the Yankees in the World Series, and take home the league’s Most Valuable Player award. But just what magazine was it that recognized the Hammer was worthy of a cover? Probably not one you would have guessed…or even heard of. But perhaps it makes sense when you think of what Aaron was able to do with a bit of lumber in his hands!
FOOTNOTE – HANK AARON’S MYSTERIOUS ABSENCE FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
I think most sports fans, and certainly Hank Aaron magazine buffs, are surprised when they learn that Hank Aaron’s first appearance on an SI cover was not until 1969. My first reaction when I learned this was that one of two factors must have been at play–
- The small market Hank Aaron played in
The first of these is almost immediately discounted when one notes the disproportionate number of Milwaukee Braves who netted covers from 1954-1960 alone.
- August 16, 1954 – Eddie Mathews (first ever issue of SI!)
- August 15, 1955 – Eddie Mathews
- June 25, 1956 – Warren Spahn
- July 30, 1956 – Joe Adcock
- April 21, 1958 – Del Crandall
- June 2, 1958 – Eddie Mathews
- July 7, 1958 – Del Crandall
- June 6, 1960 – Red Shoendienst
And as for racism, while all of the above Milwaukee Braves were white, here are the various black athletes featured on SI covers in 1957 alone–about one issue in every ten.
- February 25, 1957 – Johnny Saxton
- April 29, 1957 – Sugar Ray Robinson
- July 29, 1957 – Floyd Patterson
- September 2, 1957 – Althea Gibson
- October 7, 1957 – Ollie Matson
One thing I learned while perusing the SI Cover archive is that yesterday’s SI was quite a bit different from today’s SI. For example, here are four “athletes” we’d never see on a modern cover.
I guess it’s hard to know today what the thinking was 50+ years ago. Were I running the mag, I would have at least made Aaron’s remarkable 1957 season the focus of my 1958 baseball preview issue–maybe something along the lines of “Are the Braves on Top to Stay?” Well, what do you know! They did do that–they just took a picture of the Yankees instead. But hold on…zoom in real close now…and who’s that standing on third base? Could it be?