Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s Hawaii connection

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mike Lum carried the flag of the 50th state long before Shane Victorino and Kolton Wong brought a big taste of Hawaii into the major leagues. Hank Aaron was his teammate.

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Lum became the first American of Japanese ancestry to play in the major leagues in 1967 when he debuted with the Atlanta Braves. He said, Aaron had a profound impact on him.

“He made a big impact,” Lum said. “I can remember the very first day I walked in the clubhouse back in 1967 as a rookie 54 and seeing Hank Aaron you go to yourself ‘wow, Hank Aaron.'”

That was long before Hank Aaron started his chase toward becoming the game’s most prolific home run hitter of all time. He would endure racist slurs and even death threats throughout that streak, all the while maintaining his dignity and sportsmanship.

“He was a gentleman, he was a great teammate and he was very quiet,” Lum said. “Didn’t say a whole lot but he was willing to give you his time. If you had any questions, I felt comfortable going up to him and asking him questions.”

Lum said, Aaron was much more than a gifted athlete and a pillar of strength for the team. He was a mentor who helped many, including Lum, who said Aaron gave him his first opportunity to coach.

Lum just retired himself in October, 2020, after spending 57 years in the game.

“I played with him for 8 years but his legacy is just unbelievable the legacy he left in this game. He will be missed,” Lum said. “Any time anyone passes away it becomes a shock, but I felt it in my heart because I’ve known Hank for so many years and we did things together.”

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