Hank Aaron, legend of baseball and former home run king, passes away at 86
Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron died, the Baseball Hall of Famer who shattered the all-time home run record of Babe Ruth in the face of bigotry and became a respected game ambassador. He'd been 86.
In a statement, his longtime band, the Atlanta Braves, said that Aaron "passed away in his sleep." The cause of death was not revealed.
In a tweet, Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk said, "We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank," First as a player, then with player growth, and always with our community efforts, he was a torch for our organization. His immense ability and resolve helped him achieve the highest milestones, but he never lost his humble nature.
Not only was Henry Louis Aaron our hero, he was an icon in Major League Baseball and around the world. Only his business successes off the field balanced his performance on the diamond and capped his remarkable philanthropic activities.
In the face of hatred and death threats from people who did not want a Black man to claim such a significant record, Aaron's incredible power-hitting achievement came about.
"one of the greatest honors of my life"one of the greatest honors of my life"Hank's impact on our sport and the society.effect "Hank's on our sport and society.
In a tweet, Manfred said, "Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone's list of all-time great players,"
"Only his dignity and integrity as an individual exceeded his monumental accomplishments as a player. Hank symbolised the very best of our game, and his all-around success presented an example for Americans and fans around the world to aspire to. His career shows that a person who goes to work every day with modesty can hammer his way into history—and find a way to shine like no other.
Illustrious career with 755 home runs highlighted
In 1982, after an illustrious MLB career marked by 755 home runs, Aaron, known as "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank," was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a career record that stood for more than three decades. On April 8, 1974, Aaron famously broke Ruth's longstanding home run record, hitting his 715th homer at home in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium during a game against Los Angeles.
Aaron was taunted regularly at ballparks while he was hunting Ruth's record, received threats on his life, and was sent thousands of pieces of racial hate mail. He said he didn't read any of the mail, but kept some as a reminder.
"There were times during the chase when I was so angry and tired and sick of it all that I wished I could get on a plane and not get off until I was someplace where they never heard of Babe Ruth," he wrote in his autobiography "I Had a Hammer"
"I had to break the number, but damn it all. For Jackie (Robinson) and my people and myself and for anyone who ever called me a (N-word), I had to do this.
"marvelous moment for baseball ... the country and the world."wonderful moment for baseball... the country and the world.
"A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol, and it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron," Scully said as Aaron was mobbed at home plate by his teammates and family.
A native of Mobile, Alabama, Aaron grew up deep in the heart of the segregated South in the 1930s and '40s—an African-American man with little access to organized baseball teams, fields or facilities.
Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, who has been friends with Aaron since 1965, said the hate and threats "rolled off his back like water off a duck's back." over the life of the slugger.
"It says a lot about the way his mother and father raised him," Young told CNN Friday. "He was a child of the South, he was a child of racism, but he never let it bother him publicly. He never let it slow him down or change his focus in life."
In order to obtain the coronavirus vaccine, Aaron joined Young and other African American leaders at Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine earlier this month. The event was part of a movement to foster faith in the vaccine in neighborhoods that have been grappling with the history of racism in medical research in America.
Tributes in the sporting and political community
Reaction to the death of Aaron and remembrances from the world of sports and politics poured out on Friday.
Former President Barack Obama said on Twitter, "Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we've ever seen and one of the strongest people I've ever met," He said, "Michelle and I send our prayers and thoughts to the Aaron family and everyone else who was inspired by this unassuming man and his towering example,"
"The former Home Run King wasn't handed his throne," former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
"He grew up poor and faced racism as he progressed to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Hank never let hatred he faced consume him. Henry Louis Aaron was a joyful man, a loving husband to Billye, and a proud father."
Former President Jimmy Carter said he and his wife, Rosalynn, were devastated by the death of their "dear friend"
"One of the greatest baseball players of all time, he has been a personal hero to us," Carter said. "A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come."
For every home run hit by Aaron, fans hold up signs in the outfield as he is honoured on the 40th anniversary of his 715th at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 8, 2014.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, Aaron's friend and former Braves teammate, said that Aaron, alongside his father, had been the most significant influence on his life.
"He was the best person that I ever knew, and the truest, most honest person that I ever knew. He taught me how to be a man and how to be a proud African-American,"He was the best person I ever knew, and the truest, most honest person I ever knew. He taught me how to be a man and how to be a proud African-American.
"He taught me how important it was to give back to the community, and he inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Hank affected my life, my family and my world, both on and off the field. He was a great man," he said.
Scully tweeted that Aaron "meant so much more to baseball and the country than just being one of the game's top home run hitters. He truly was a very special man."
"A baseball legend who transcended the sport." The Chicago Cubs tweeted.
In a tweet, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that "Mr. Aaron was part of the fabric that helped place Atlanta on the world stage."
Bottoms told Wolf Blitzer of CNN that the hearts of Atlanta residents were shattered.
"Hank Aaron, for as big as he was on the world stage, this was our hometown hero," she said.
Bottoms said that the day she took her mother to get her Morehouse vaccine, she saw Aaron with his mom.
In our community, they are out and about. Bottom said, "They are out and about in our community. Huge philanthropic presence in our community and just salt of the earth people,"
Basketball legend Earvin "Rest in Peace to American hero, icon, and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron," Johnson tweeted "Magic"
"We will miss you," wrote Bernice King, the youngest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Civil Rights symbol. "Your leadership. Your grace. Your generosity. Your love. Thank you, #HankAaron."
As Aaron chased Ruth's record, hate escalated.
Aaron smiles as he is honoured outside the Braves' spring training facility in North Port, Florida, on Feb. 18, 2020, with a street named after him.
Aaron's Alabama childhood was characterized by a baseball obsession. When he cut off too many lessons to listen to the Brooklyn Dodgers games on the pool hall radio, he was thrown out of high school.
When the first African-American to enter Major League Baseball, Aaron's hero Jackie Robinson, arrived in Mobile in 1948, Aaron cut class to hear the Dodger speak at a drugstore. He told his father later that day that that was what he wanted to do with his life.
In his autobiography, Aaron wrote, "gave us our dreams."
I remember my mother at 6 or 7 o'clock in the afternoon when I was growing up in Mobile, Alabama on a little dirt street,"When I was growing up in Mobile, Alabama on a little dirt street, I remember my mother about 6 or 7 o'clock in the afternoon," "You could hardly see and I'd be trying to throw a baseball and she'd say, 'Come here, come here!' And I'd say, 'For what?' She said, 'Get under the bed.'"
When the KKK would march by, burn a cross and go on about their business, his family would hide under the bed and then she (my mother) would say,' You can come out now.' Can you imagine what this would do to the average person? Here I am, a little kid, doing nothing, just catching a baseball with a friend of mine and telling me,' Go under the bed.'
Aaron played with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League after leaving high school.
Years later, with a Class A team based in Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron wrote that when he heard racial shouts from fans, the mayor told him that he should "suffer quietly"
Fans were hurling bricks. By wearing mops over their heads and tossing black cats on the ground, they mocked the black players. Death threats were investigated by the FBI. The players knew how to ignore hatred, but Aaron wrote in his autobiography, "we couldn't help but feel the weight of what we were doing,"
The hate escalated only when, as Ruth was known, he chased the home run record of the venerable Sultan of Swat. Through the Braves Stadium, hate mail poured. Several death threats and abduction attempts against Aaron's kids were also investigated by the FBI. Aaron began to accompany an armed guard.
"I've always felt like once I put the uniforms on and once I got out onto the playing field, I could separate the two from say an evil letter I got the day before or an event 20 minutes before," Aaron told CNN. "God gave me the separation, gave me the ability to separate the two of them."
In an exclusive club, he was the first player.
On the baseball diamond, Aaron shone brilliantly. Over 23 major league seasons, he had 3,771 hits, a milestone he would still have reached without any home runs, according to the Braves. On May 17, 1970, at the 3,000-hit, 500-home run club, Aaron became the first player in history.
The MVP of the 1957 National League guided Milwaukee to a win that year in the World Series. He's been an All-Star 25 times, a record.
With a .305 career batting average, he was one of baseball's most prolific hitters. He beat the .300 mark 14 times, hit 30 home runs 15 times in a season, and drove 16 times in 90 runs. He won three Gold Glove Awards, mostly in the right field, as well.
Aaron held baseball's home run lifetime record until Barry Bonds, whose feat was tarnished by a steroid scandal, passed it in 2007. With 762 homers, Bonds finished his career.
In RBIs with 2,297 and total bases with 6,856, Aaron remains baseball's all-time leader. In 1982, his first qualifying year, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
MLB created the Hank Aaron Award in 1999, given to the best hitter in both the American and National Leagues every year.
Since retiring from his playing career in 1976, Aaron has been working in the Braves front office — most recently as a senior vice president, according to the Braves. He founded, in 1995, the Chasing the Dream Foundation, a children's charity. He served on the NAACP board and was a benefactor of the School of Medicine of Morehouse.
When you get to meet him, a little bit of Hank Aaron rubs off on you,"A little bit of Hank Aaron rubs off on you when you get to meet him," "His personality was always calm and cool and deliberate."
According to the Braves organization, in addition to his wife, Billye, Aaron is survived by his five children, Gaile, Hank Jr., Lary, Dorinda and Ceci.