- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

Noble: Medal of Freedom winner Hank Aaron, for a lifetime of All-Star performance despite every possible obstacle.
He had a hammer. And he hammered homers in the morning, and in the evening, and all over this land. Hank Aaron hammered homers despite the segregated South that he grew up and played baseball in, despite the death threats that came in when he was on the verge of setting baseball records, even (and perhaps most amazingly) despite the music of Peter, Paul and Mary.
But Aaron's 755 homers were only a part of his baseball story. By the time he retired in 1976 after 23 years in the major leagues, he had amassed 2,297 runs batted in (another career record), won three Gold Gloves and appeared in 24 All-Star Games (yes, another record). The right-fielder set 13 career major-league records in his career (an amazing total only exceeded by Peter, Paul and Mary, with 22 records, or at least albums, to their credit).
Those who watched baseball's summer showcase become the Major League meltdown in Milwaukee (more on that below) may find it amusing that Aaron spent much of his career in that city. He signed with the then-Milwaukee Braves organization in 1952 and became a starter in 1954. He smashed a spectacular 11th-inning homer against the St. Louis Cardinals to give the Braves the pennant in 1957 and hammered in another three homers as the team beat the Yankees in the World Series. He kept hammering homers for another 20 years, bypassing Babe Ruth's record of 714 in 1974.
Even before he hung up his hammer, Aaron was an active voice against discrimination, and an active force for charities and nonprofits, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boy Scouts.
For his many achievements, on and off the field, Hank Aaron was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week by President Bush, who remarked, "By steadily pursuing his calling in the face of unreasoning hatred, Hank Aaron has proven himself a great human being, as well as a great athlete."

Knaves: Bud Selig and the rest of the bumblers who turned what was supposed to be an All-Star showcase into an All-Star fiasco.
Selig has a business. And that business apparently drives everything he does, no matter how much it disappoints fans, no matter how much it distorts a sport that has become so much of a business that its forgotten it's a game. Those extreme baseball loyalists who managed to stay awake through the "Price is Right" contestant lineup changes and the preening that would make peacocks blush (good thing it was televised on Fox), found themselves staring at a game that ended in a tie (7-7) because the managers had run out of pitchers.
So instead of doing the unusual breaking a baseball rule by bringing a previously retired pitcher back into the ball game, Selig opted for the utterly unprecedented declaring a tie at the bottom of the 11th inning. Most fans didn't see it the game received record-low television ratings and Nielsen doesn't count people asleep on the sofa.
Selig has promised that this won't happen again, and he's probably right. After all, the safe money is on a players' strike before the season ends. Which means that the best baseball this fall will be on ESPN Classic. Here's hoping they'll be showing the '57 World Series.


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