Another baseball Hall of Famer has gone to a better place. The home run king until 2007, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron has passed away at age 86.
Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and made his way onto the scene in the Negro Leagues, starting with the Indianapolis Clowns. Due to his performance, he landed contract offers from the Boston Braves and New York Giants and accepted the Braves’ offer because he earned a bit more money. During his time in the minor leagues, Aaron had to overcome constant racism, both on the road and in hotels. Jim Crow Laws were still in effect in parts of the United States, so much of the time he was not able to travel or stay with his team. Aaron overcame these horrible obstacles, playing in 23 Major League Baseball seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Aaron hit 755 home runs with over 3,000 hits and maintained a career slash line of .305/.374/.555. His most historic moment came when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 longballs. While on his way to breaking the record, Aaron received constant hate mail and death threats. Since the home run record chase was such an engrossing news story, the Atlanta Braves played the Los Angeles Dodgers on an NBC national TV broadcast. Hank stepped to the plate in the fourth inning and the rest was history:
Aaron belted a fastball to deep left-center field. He had done it. Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, which had stood for nearly 39 years to the day.
Aaron retired two seasons later, but not without leaving his mark on the league. He handled all the adversity thrown his way and became one of the most notable names across history. Everyone knew him as one of the kindest and most graceful athletes in sports. He was a legend and a role model for every young baseball fan. He received the highest American honor in 2002 when President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rest in Peace, Hank.