In an online exclusive, the great Hank Aaron, captured here by LIFE photographer George Silk during a 1957 Milwaukee Braves game, spoke with LIFE.com about his own extraordinary career, as well as other players--many of them Hall of Famers and good friends--who helped make his life in baseball (and the lives of fans who follow baseball) so rich, and so much fun, for so many years.
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"Willie was the complete ballplayer. He was everything that everyone else wanted to be. He was exciting. He did things that fans loved seeing. You looked at him and you said, 'I wanna be like him. I wanna be better than him.' You just felt like he played the game the way it was supposed to be played."
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"Jackie is the reason I am where I am. And he was a player's player. He did everything for his teammates and his team to help win championships. He knew how to rile other teams up, how to get them thinking about anything other than winning the ball game. I was in school in Mobile, Alabama, when I heard that he signed with the Dodgers, and I was so happy. I wanted to be a ballplayer, and while I knew that what he was doing was a long way off from where I was, I also knew somebody had to do it before I got there. Before I could get there."
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"Warren Spahn was such a control freak, in the best possible way. When we sat down before a game he would say, 'I'm gonna pitch this guy outside and I want everyone to play him the opposite way,' and that is exactly the way he would pitch him. And, you know, I believe if he wasn't pitching he probably could have been a fourth outfielder. He was a very good hitter, and a fierce competitor. He was good. He was about as good as anybody I've ever seen."
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Burdette (left) with Milwaukee Braves manager Fred Haney and a reporter, after the Braves beat the Yankees in the 1957 World Series. "Lew Burdette happens to be one of my favorites. Not just because he beat the Yankees three times in the World Series, but because he was accused of a lot of things, they always said he threw spitballs, but nobody ever caught him. He could pitch in the clutch, was a pitcher's pitcher, and he didn't mind protecting his teammates. If a pitcher threw at one of our players, you just knew Lew was going to knock somebody else down."
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Leroy "Satchel" Paige was a Negro League star who, in 1948 at the age of 41, became the oldest rookie in major league history. "If he had come up into the majors when he was younger, he probably would have broken all the pitching records. You've heard the stories about him telling the infielders and outfielders to go sit down in the dugout, 'cause he's going to strike out the next three batters? And then goes ahead and does it? I didn't see that, but I heard it from so many guys who played with him that I gotta believe that it's true."
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