Aaron, who was twenty years old, had doubts about making it on the Braves roster that spring. Purchased from Negro League baseball’s Indianapolis Clowns in 1952, he spent two years destroying pitchers in the Braves’ minor league system. While one of the first African Americans in the Southern Atlantic League (Sally League) in 1953, he hit .362 with 22 home runs and won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. However, Aaron thought at best he would be assigned to the Braves’ Triple A team in Toledo, Ohio.
However, Braves’ veteran outfielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle during an exhibition game in March and the team turned to Aaron. Exceeding his expectations, the rookie left spring training as the Braves opening day left fielder.
In his first Major League game, Aaron went hitless in five at bats against Reds’ pitchers Bud Podbielan, Joe Nuxhall, and Frank Smith as the Braves lost 9 – 8. However, two days later in the Braves’ 7 – 6 home opening victory against the St. Louis Cardinals he got the first of his 3,771 Major League hits; a first inning double off pitcher Vic Raschi. In St. Louis on April 23, Raschi was also the pitching victim for the first of Aaron’s 755 Major League career home runs. Henry Aaron finished his rookie season batting .282 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.
In his first Major League game, Aaron played in the outfield next to what other African American?