Hank Aaron, longtime HR king, dies at age 86
Hall of Fame Major League Baseball slugger and former longtime home run leader Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died at age 86. In a press release, the Atlanta Braves organization said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep.
Aaron’s 755 home runs stood as the benchmark for aspiring sluggers until Barry Bonds broke his long-standing record in 2007. Even in the midst of Bonds’ allegations surrounding his alleged use of performance-enhancing supplements, Aaron never begrudged Bonds. Instead, he said that it was time for a new king, as sitting atop the record books for more than three decades was “long enough.”
Before Aaron, New York Yankees legend Babe Ruth held the record for most home runs in a season. Then, the former Braves slugger hit the tie-breaking 715th homer off Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Al Downing during the 1974 season.
Aaron had a decorated pro baseball career. The first-ballot Hall of Fame player was inducted on the first ballot in 1982, where he received an overwhelming 97.8 percent approval. The late slugger won NL MVP honors in 1957, the same year the Braves won the World Series. He was a two-time batting champion (1956, 1959), a three-time Gold Glove winner in right field from 1958-60, and made a record 25 All-Star rosters.
In total, Aaron played in the MLB from 1954-76 for both the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. To this day, he still holds major league records for RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856), and extra-base hits (1,477). He ranks third all-time in hits (3,771), third in games played (3,298), and fourth in runs scored (2,174).
In his later life, Aaron was a pioneer for change and equality in the Black community. Even though he faced discrimination and threats to his safety during his allustrious career, Aaron worked with the MLB to create more opportunities for African-American baseball players, and he rose awareness to social injustice and racial inequality.
“On the field, Blacks have been able to be supergiants,” he once said. “But once our playing days are over, this is the end of it and we go back to the back of the bus again.”
Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig referred to Aaron, winner of the 2002 Presidential Medal of Freedom, as a “true Hall of Famer in every way.”
“Besides being one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hank was a wonderful and dear person and a wonderful and dear friend,” Selig said in a statement. “Not long ago, he and I were walking the streets of Washington, D.C. together and talking about how we’ve been the best of friends for more than 60 years. Then Hank said: ‘Who would have ever thought all those years ago that a black kid from Mobile, Alabama would break Babe Ruth’s home run record and a Jewish kid from Milwaukee would become the Commissioner of Baseball?'”
Aaron, a legendary baseball player, civil rights activist, and pioneer for change, was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934, and changed the game without the opportunity to play organized baseball in high school. On Twitter, the Braves organization provided visitation times in a tweet for those who wish to pay respects at his statue at Monument Garden inside of Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia. For more sports coverage, click here.