Hank Aaron, Home Run King and Atlanta Braves Legend, Has Died
The baseball great was 86.
Aaron, one of eight children, was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1934 to Herbert and Estella Aaron. His family could not afford baseball equipment, so the burgeoning young athlete practiced by hitting bottle caps with sticks in sandlots.
Aaron started his pro career in the Negro Leagues in 1951 and made his Major League Debut with the then-Milwaukee Braves in 1954—eight years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. Aaron went on to play 21 seasons for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves in the National League and two seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League, from 1954 through 1976.
On April 8, 1974 "Hammerin' Hank" hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's all-time major league record. Aaron overcame unrelenting racism to accomplish the incredible feat. His record stood for decades until Barry Bonds passed him, setting the mark at 762 in 2001.
"I believed, and still do, that there was a reason why I was chosen to break the record," he wrote in his 2009 autobiography I Had a Hammer. "I feel it's my task to carry on where Jackie Robinson left off, and I only know one way to go about it."
Aaron, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history and the one man that Muhammad Ali said he idolized "more than myself," still holds the all-time records for RBI, total bases, and extra base hits. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. In 2002, Aaron received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush.
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The father of six also established the Chasing the Dream Foundation, which helped 755 underprivileged kids get an education.
"My wife [Billye] gives a lot, and I give a lot" he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2006. "But that's what we're here for. I just feel like nothing that we have belongs to us. It was given to me by God, and when we leave here, I don't know of anybody who will go with a casket full of money. Why not let somebody else enjoy whatever I've been fortunate enough to accumulate?"
Our thoughts are with Aaron's family, friends, and his legion of fans.