Cover image for Me and Hank : a boy and his hero, twenty-five years later
Me and Hank : a boy and his hero, twenty-five years later
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, c2000.
Physical Description:
vii, 311 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 AARON 1 1

On Order


Author Notes

Sandy Tolan is the co-founder of Homelands Productions, an independent public-interest journalism organization.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

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 point you already 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. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Native Milwaukeean Sandy Tolan was nine years old when the Milwaukee Braves left town for greener pastures in Atlanta. Despite the Braves' defection, Tolan remained a loyal fan of hometown hero Hank Aaron. In 1973, when Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth's home-run record and reports emerged that the slugger was receiving racist hate mail, young Sandy wrote Aaron an encouraging letter, and Aaron responded with a handwritten note. Fast-forward 25 years later and Tolan again contacts his hero, this time to arrange a face-to-face meeting as part of an NPR program. This memoir, which examines the hatred that Aaron endured and attempts to assess why he is still an "underrated athlete," grows out of that program. Moving from Cooperstown to Atlanta, Tolan interviews Aaron and other retired players, including Dusty Baker and Phil Niekro as well as baseball commissioner Bud Selig, another Milwaukee native and Aaron supporter. Tolan also visits the Midwest, where he reminisces and discusses the social and racial atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s. Depsite its scattershot approach, this is a heartfelt memoir from a loyal baseball fan. --Sue-Ellen Beauregard

Library Journal Review

In 1964, Tolan, a Milwaukee youngster, made a rising Braves star his hero. Though Hank Aaron and the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, the boy followed Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's 714-home run record. As Aaron became a target of abuse and threats, young Tolan in 1973 wrote an encouraging letter to the beset slugger. Getting a surprise response, he became a determined advocate of Aaron's fight against racism and in 1999 finally met the Hall of Famer and new home run king. Over the years, Tolan delves into the racial discrimination that Aaron had to fight. This tribute to his hero's bitter courage and achievements is a good popular sports choice.DMorey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Lib., Tucson, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
1 The Encounterp. 23
2 Bittersweet Embracep. 41
3 Shadow of the Babep. 59
4 Hometownp. 75
5 Newly Southp. 107
6 Separate Memoriesp. 131
7 A Hero in the Neighborhoodp. 151
8 Hall of Famep. 175
9 Big Bluep. 203
10 Valuesp. 239
11 Inheritancep. 271
Sources and Acknowledgmentsp. 301
Photo Creditsp. 309