One of baseball’s biggest stars passed away this morning, Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron. The Hall of Fame slugger whose 755 career home runs stood as baseball’s golden mark, passed at age 86.
The Atlanta Braves and Aaron family have reported that the legend went in his sleep. The Aaron family has also told ABC News that they would like privacy in their time of grieving.
Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron was more than an icon on the baseball diamond, but was also known for his philanthropy and being a civil rights activist. “He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature,” Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said in a statement.
Hank’s career started his junior year in high school, when he joined the Mobile Black Bears, a semipro Negro League team where he played right field and third base. While playing for the Black Bears he made $3 a game which equates to $32 in today’s standards. He later joined the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951, a Negro American League team, where he made a name for himself.
Hammerin’ Hank still ranks among the top of the MLB list. Aaron still holds major league records for RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477), and he ranks among MLB’s best in hits (3,771, third all time), games played (3,298, third) and runs scored (2,174, fourth). He was the National League MVP winner in 1957 — World Series champion in the same year — two- time NL league batting champion (1956,’59), three-time Golden Glove winner (1958-60) and a record setting 25 time All-Star. In 1999, MLB renamed the batting champion award to the Hank Aaron award.
Hammerin’ Hank was in the 1974 postseason in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, when he broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs. This of course, was preceded and followed by death threats from white fans who did not want to see the record broken by a Black man. He played for two more seasons ending his career with 755, this stood the test of time until 2007 when Barry Bonds broke his record.
Henry Louis ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, with 97.8% approval in his first year on the ballot.
He also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
“Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone’s list of all-time great players, his monumental achievements as a player were surpassed only by his dignity and integrity as a person.” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
The city of Atlanta is deeply saddened by the loss of one of their heros according to many publications and the Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “We are heartbroken and thinking of his wife Billye and their children Gaile, Hank, Jr., Lary, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren,” stated by Atlanta Braves chairmen Terry McGurik.
The Associated Press and ESPN contributed to this report.