US baseball legend and civil rights icon Hank Aaron dies | Baseball Information
Aaron, one of the few black baseball players at the time, beat Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974.
Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity as he pursued Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully made his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-rounder, has died. He was 86 years old.
The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s longtime team, said he died peacefully in his sleep on Friday. No reason was given.
Aaron’s clout earned him the nickname “Hammerin ‘Hank” and his strength has been attributed to strong wrists. He was a bit shy and modest and didn’t have the flair of contemporaries Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
“What a wonderful moment for baseball … What a wonderful moment for the country and the world.”
RIP Hank Aaron, one of the greatest of all time.pic.twitter.com/kjrvSK19BM
– MLB Vault (@MLBVault) January 22, 2021
Aaron was on the news two weeks ago when he and his wife Billye publicly received the first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to send a message to black Americans that the shots are safe.
When I get vaccinated, I feel wonderful, Aaron said at the time. “I have no concerns at all, you know? I’m pretty proud of myself for doing something like this … It’s just a small thing that can help tens of people in this country. “
Aaron played with a sleek, controlled style that made the game look so easy that some critics wondered if he was really doing his best [File: AP Photo]Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record in 1974 when he reached his 715th.
The longtime Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves racket held the record for most home races for more than 30 years before Barry Bonds broke it in 2007. Aaron ended his 23-year career with 755 home runs, including an 18-year track on which he scored at least 24 per season.
Aaron began his career in the Negro Leagues in 1951 with the Indianapolis Clowns before the Braves signed on. He made his MLB debut in 1954 and spent the next 21 seasons with the Braves before retiring from the Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976).
He appeared in a record-breaking 25 All-Star Games.
Aaron was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1982. Both the Braves and Brewers withdrew its number 44.
But Aaron’s trip to that memorable Homer was hardly a pleasant one. He was the target of extensive hate mail as he neared Ruth’s precious record of 714. Much of this was triggered by the fact that Ruth was white and Aaron was black.
“If I were white, all of America would be proud of me,” said Aaron almost a year before he passed Ruth. “But I am black.”
Aaron was on the news January 5 when he publicly received the first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine with the aim of sending a message to Black Americans that the shots are safe [Ron Harris/AP Photo]Bodyguards were deployed in 1973 after Aaron and his family fell victim to death threats and other harassment from racists who did not want a black man to break such a sacred record of the charismatic Ruth.
Another black baseball player, Jackie Robinson, who was Aaron’s hero, had integrated the major leagues in 1947. When Aaron arrived in 1954, the US civil rights movement had not yet built momentum. Aaron was sometimes unable to stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as his white teammates, some of whom had ostracized him.
The drive for the home run title left scars on Aaron. In his 1991 autobiography, I Had A Hammer, he described the final days of his search as saying, “I thought I deserved the right to be treated like a person in the city who should be too busy to be to hate.
“The way I saw it, Atlanta was just too busy for baseball. The Braves didn’t seem to mind, and it seemed like the only thing that mattered to the home run record that a nigger wanted to step out of line and break it. “
Aaron played with a sleek, controlled style that made the game look so easy that some critics wondered if he was really doing his best. But a strong inner desire drove Aaron as he overcame an impoverished youth and racial hatred to become one of the greatest and most enduring baseball stars of all time.
Aaron’s profile on the Baseball Hall of Fame website states that boxing legend Muhammad Ali described Aaron as “the only man I adore more than myself.” It cites Mickey Mantle as Aaron “the best baseball player of my time … he never got the credit he deserves”.
It is with great sadness that we share the death of our self-led King Hank Aaron. pic.twitter.com/ZdRuhqIaet
– Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 22, 2021
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