“The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron” by Howard Bryant, narrated by Dominic Hoffman
Baseball, history, biography, Braves, audio book
May 11, 2010
4 of 5 stars (very good)
The story of Henry Aaron is one that many baseball fans might be surprised to hear. Not because they have not heard of him, of course, but because of how much they may not know. From his beginnings in Mobile, Alabama to his days playing for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues to his historic major league career with the Braves, this book by Howard Bryant covers it all. Add in some good narration by Dominic Hoffman and social commentary at the time of Aaron’s playing days and it makes for an interesting audio book.
Whatever one may think about the use of performance enhancing drugs and the legitimacy of records set by players who allegedly used them, a reader will believe that Aaron handled the situation with Barry Bonds passing him for the all-time home run leader with dignity and fairness. Through Bryant’s description of that time, it is shown that Aaron was both congratulatory to Bonds, though not overly so because of the controversy. It is also clear that Aaron did not want to be a big part of the celebration, as he only agreed to provide a video that was a somewhat tepid congratulatory message to Bonds. This is an example of how Aaron’s personality and manner was captured throughout the book.
While the book is primarily about Aaron and his plight as a black man in both the southern United States and what he went through as he approached Babe Ruth’s record, it did at times feel a bit preachy about race relations at that troubled time. While that cannot be ignored if one is going to write about Aaron, some parts of the book felt more like the author’s take on social issues instead of how they affected Aaron and his fellow black baseball players. They were interesting, but for this listener, those segments took something away from the big story.
The narration by Hoffman was very good as he never sounded to be too emotional during these passages. The evenness of his tone was soothing to hear. This came across like a conversation between the men on the porch, just passing the time talking about baseball and how it might affect other issues. Which is what the book was trying to do – sometimes it tried too hard – but overall it was a nice story on the man who many believe is still the home run king of baseball.
Pace of the book:
For an audio book, this felt leisurely. I would be listening, becoming immersed into the scene or story and then it felt like the next disc would have to be popped into the player. That isn’t because of the speed of the narrator or the story, but by the descriptions. It felt like that porch conversation or like listening to a ball game on the radio.
Do I recommend?
Any reader who likes baseball biographies will enjoy this book. Because Henry Aaron is one who is admired by many and also
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