Another legend joins the ancestor.
According to his daughter, Atlanta Braves home run king Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away this morning at 86-years-old. He was one of eight children born on Feb. 5, 1934, in segregated Mobile, Alabama, to Herbert and Estella Aaron. Although his family didn’t have money and couldn’t buy baseball equipment, he would sharpen his skills using sticks and bottle caps.
It is with great sadness we share the passing of our home run king, Hank Aaron. pic.twitter.com/ZdRuhqIaet
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 22, 2021advertisement
In an interview on his 80th birthday, he said his family’s support got him through tough times and helped his dreams come true.
“If it hadn’t been for my brother, my uncle, sharing their love and making me realize that… although I had a dream at that time… but if I keep looking and pursue it, that I could match it,” Aaron told reporters.
Aaron fought segregation and terrible racism in the deep south, receiving death threats while playing, yet he persevered.
Hank Aaron was not only a home run king, but a king of justice. In the face of racism and vitriol, he broke through barriers with grace on his way to becoming one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. We’ve lost a true trailblazer and American icon.advertisement
May he rest in peace. https://t.co/HXD5bqGbnm
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 22, 2021
He was friends with icons such as Muhammad Ali, who said he idolized him “more than myself,” and was known to the world as “Hammerin’ Hank.” In 1949, at 15-years-old he tried out with the Brooklyn Dodgers; he didn’t make the team and went on to get his high school diploma. At 17, he started in the minor league’s the Indianapolis Clown’s organization of the negro leagues. He made his Major League debut and started his 23-year-career with the then-Milwaukee Braves.
On Apr. 23, 1954, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Aaron recorded the first of his 755 home runs. He finished fourth in his first season in the rookie of the year voting. That year Aaron hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBIs; this was the start of one of the most legendary careers in baseball history. Twenty years later, on Apr. 8, 1974, he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 career home runs. Aaron retired on Oct. 3, 1976, and then became the Braves director of player development until 1989. He then became senior vice president of the baseball team.
Hank Aaron, my childhood baseball hero, has gone home. Watching him break Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs on television was a monumental moment. As a young black child, he inspired me to push for excellence. Rest easy Sir. pic.twitter.com/frco9tTIdV
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) January 22, 2021
According to the New York Times, “Aaron remains No. 1 in the major leagues in total bases (6,856) and runs batted in (2,297); No. 2 in at-bats (12,364), behind Pete Rose; and No. 3 in hits (3,771), behind Rose and Cobb. He won the National League’s single-season home run title four times, though his highest total was 47 in 1971. Matching his jersey number, he hit exactly 44 home runs in four different seasons.”
A towering figure in baseball, and society, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 1, 1982, in Cooperstown, New York. On the 25th anniversary of him breaking the home run record, Major League Baseball established the Hank Aaron Award, which is given to the league’s best overall hitter. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush and in 2010 was inducted as a Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society.
Hank Aaron told us how he wanted to be remembered.
Rest, Hank… pic.twitter.com/YdCf2rYassadvertisement
— Rex Chapman (@RexChapman) January 22, 2021
“It was always this player and that player and then Henry Aaron, but now I think I’m appreciated,” Aaron said when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I never wanted them to forget Babe Ruth. I just wanted them to remember Henry Aaron.”
He is survived by his wife, Billye; two sons, Lary and Henry Jr., and two daughters, Dorinda and Gaile, from his first marriage to ex-wife, Barbara; and his daughter Ceci, from Billye Aaron’s first marriage.
Thank you for your fearlessness, Hank! Because of you, we can!
Photo Credit: Associated Press/Getty Images