Hank Aaron, baseball's all-time home run leader, and Frank Robinson, the only man to be most valuable player in each major league, joined the Hall of Fame today, Robinson calling it ironic he went in with the man he had been "chasing for a long time."
Inducted with Aaron and Robinson, current manager of the San Francisco Giants, were former commissioner A.B. (Happy) Chandler and Travis Jackson, 1920s-30s New York Giants shortstop.
Aaron, who broke baseball's career home run record with his 715th in 1974 and totaled 755 for 23 years in the majors, received the longest, loudest ovation from a crowd of about 4,000.
On the front steps of the Hall of Fame library, Aaron expressed a "sense of humility and gratitude" and said he was particularly pleased to be inducted on the spot where Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella stood only a few years before.
"Man's ability is limited only by his lack of opportunity," Aaron said, referring to baseball's longtime color barrier broken by Jackie Robinson, who will be commemorated anew Monday with issuance of a 20-cent postal stamp before the Hall of Fame game (Mets-White Sox). Chandler, in his acceptance speech, took large credit for helping Branch Rickey get Robinson into the majors.
Aaron and Frank Robinson became the 12th and 13th players voted into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, upon five years' retirement as active players. Chandler, 84, and Jackson, 78, were selected by the Old Timers Committee.
Aaron's 406 votes were second only to the 409 received by Willie Mays, a 1979 inductee, and Aaron received a larger percentage of votes cast.
"I took the talent that God gave me and tried to develop it to the best of my ability," said Aaron, the hero of Milwaukee and Atlanta.
Robinson, whose best of 21 seasons were with Cincinnati and Baltimore, hit 586 home runs. He was named MVP in the National League in 1961 and in the American League in 1966.
Robinson said he was often asked how he achieved the quickness in his hands that made him one of baseball's best hitters.
"When you are one of 10 children to sit down at the dinner table, you have to be quick," he said.
The late Bob Addie of The Washington Post and fellow baseball writer Allen Lewis of Philadelphia were honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink award. Shirley Povich of The Washington Post received the Spink award in 1976.