This past year has been very tough on the world of baseball. On January 22, 2021 Baseball Hall of Famer “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron died in his sleep at his home less than a month before his 87th birthday.
While best known for his breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record on the way to 755 homers; Aaron had a career average of .300, a speed demon running the bases, and was as graceful as a dancer in the outfield. He also racked up 2,297 RBI’s, 1,477 extra base hits, 6,856 total bases – the most in MLB history – and was an MLB All Star 21 of his 23 years as a player.
He earned the National League batting title twice in his career and was a three time Gold Gloves winner. He was named the National League MVP in 1957 and was a member of the Milwaukee Braves World Series winning team.
During his career Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs… a record that was thought would never be broken. But on April 8, 1974; Aaron broke the record with home run number 715 in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He added nearly 40 more homers before retiring from the game.
Long time Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully summed up the historic moment with the words, “what a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for 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.”
He spent 23 years as a player; mostly for the Milwaukee and later Atlanta Braves.
Though he shined on the field of play; Aaron, an Alabama native, lived through Jim Crow laws, segregation, and racism…even as he homered his way to the Hall of Fame.
When Aaron was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 1982 – his first year of eligibility – Aaron lacked just nine votes from receiving a unanimous vote.
Former President Barack Obama spoke on Aaron saying, “he never missed an opportunity to lead.” Adding that Aaron was an, “unassuming man who set a towering example.”
President Jimmy Carter, who often attended Braves games with wife Rosalynn, also spoke on Aaron saying, “a breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come.”
Aaron championed for causes on the field and off. Just a little over two weeks before his death, Aaron was very visible when getting his Covid-19 vaccine saying, “I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this. It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.”
After retiring as a player, Aaron spent 13 years in the front office for the Atlanta Braves; as well as a number of entrepreneurial endeavours.
Along with all of his baseball records, President George W. Bush presented Aaron with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
He was born Henry Louis Aaron on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama. He was “discovered” by the Braves while trying out for the Negro League team the Indianapolis Clowns.
Predeceased by younger brother Tommy, Aaron is survived by his second wife of over 40 years Billye; children Ceci, Gail, Hank Jr., Lary and Dorinda.
feature photo credit: By Chris Evans from same, United States – Hank Aaron 2Uploaded by Dudek1337, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31036607