One of my childhood heroes and a true Civil Rights icon has passed over. Today, “Hammering” Hank Aaron has died at the age of 86.
CBS Atlanta reports,
“Hall of Famer and one-time home run king Atlanta Braves legend Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron passed away this morning at the age of 86. He leaves behind an indelible legacy on and off the baseball diamond.
“Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He played in sandlots and started his pro career in the Negro Leagues in 1951. He made his way through the minor leagues until age 20. Aaron then made his Major League Debut and started his 23-year-career with the then-Milwaukee Braves.”
Chairman of the Atlanta Braves Terry McGuirk offered this tribute:
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, 2021
In 1949, Aaron first tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but did not make the cut. His baseball career took off as part of the Negro Leagues. In 1951, Aaron signed with the Indianapolis Clowns and played with the team for 3 months, earning $200 per month. He was signed with the Boston Braves in 1952, who eventually moved to Milwaukee, and finally to Atlanta. In 1954, Aaron made his Major League debut with the Atlanta Braves, and a year later was selected for his first All-Star Team slot. Aaron won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1957.
In 1973, Aaron famously broke the legendary Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714.
“[H]e suffered an onslaught of death threats, racist letters and hateful yelling from crowds. He was shadowed by body guards. He kept the threatening letters as a reminder of the abuse he endured.
“ ‘If I was white, all America would be proud of me,’ Aaron said almost a year before he passed Ruth. ‘But I am black.’
“He broke Ruth’s record before a sellout crowd at Atlanta Stadium, hitting number 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
Aaron made 25 All-Star teams throughout his career, and retired from the game in 1976. In 1982, Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Major League Baseball established the Hank Aaron Award in 1999 to honor the best overall offensive performer in each league.
Aaron is also in the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame, and the team retired his number “44”, just as Jackie Robinson’s “42” was retired at the end of his career.
Aaron recently made news in January when he was among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Aaron even posted about it on his Twitter.
I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine. I hope you do the same! https://t.co/RAlkmkCRra
— Hank Aaron (@HenryLouisAaron) January 5, 2021
“Getting vaccinated ‘makes me feel wonderful,’ Aaron told The Associated Press. ‘I don’t have any qualms about it at all, you know. 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.’ ”
A tip of the cap to a baseball and Civil Rights legend. May he Rest In Power.