Hank Aaron certainly upped the cool factor in a Happy Days episode 41 years ago. That’s when “Hammerin’ Hank” loved Howard’s hardware store.
And truly, it’s not every day that the greatest homerun hitter in Major League Baseball hitter steps on set. And it made so much sense for Happy Days to include Hank Aaron.
Baseball fans know why. But maybe the casual Happy Days fan didn’t get the connection. The show was based in Milwaukee, circa late 1950s. And Aaron, who starred for the Atlanta Braves, used to play in Milwaukee. The Braves started out in Boston, then moved to Milwaukee in 1953. Aaron made his Major League debut in Milwaukee the next season.
Then in 1957, Aaron helped clinch Milwaukee’s first pennant with an 11th-inning homerun. He hit three homers in the World Series to lead the Braves over the New York Yankees. And overall, with 44 homers and the National League MVP trophy, this probably was Aaron’s best season. We know in that alternate TV universe, the Braves playoff run truly brought Happy Days for the Cunningham family.
Who Did Hank Aaron Play in Happy Days?
So, how did Aaron figure in a Happy Days plot? Get this: he played himself.
The episode was called “The Hucksters” and it ran Feb 5, 1980. Howard Cunningham wanted to boost business to his hardware store. Richie produced a commercial. But it was too amateur. (Happy Days fun fact: Ron Howard, who played Richie, won an Academy Award as best director). Howard then hires an ad man to amp his business.
This is the part Aaron played: he endorsed Howard’s store. Looking handsome in a tan and blue plaid jacket, Aaron talked up the place. “Hammering Hank wouldn’t buy his hammer anyplace but Cunningham’s Hardware,” he proclaimed. Standing next to Aaron, Howard, played by Tom Bosley, smiled broadly. It probably wasn’t an act.
When Aaron was on Happy Days, he was six years removed from breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record. He hit his final homer, No. 755, in 1976. He retired at the end of the season.
And two years after his Happy Days appearance, Aaron was a near unanimous selection to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Aaron died in January. He was 86.
Happy Days truly had fun with its collection of guest stars. Tom Hanks was a karate star who came to settle a long-time score with Fonzie. And Dr. Joyce Brothers came on the show to have a therapy session with Fonzie’s dog. Danny Thomas made an appearance to play Richie and Joanie’s grandfather.
And two members of The Brady Bunch lent their fame to Happy Days. Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) was Joanie’s boyfriend on a Valentine’s episode. Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) played a pretty girl who attracted the attention of Richie, Potsie and Ralph.
It’s all why Happy Days was so much fun to watch.