Author: Victor Trammell
Photo credits: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, via Getty Images
A legendary figure who revolutionized America’s favorite sports pastime will honorably be laid to rest soon alongside other pioneers who made their impact in the record books and beyond.
According to WGCL-TV, (Channel 46) a local CBS News affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron (aka Hammerin’ Hank) passed away at the age of 86 on Friday morning (January 22). The media outlet’s early report did not confirm an official cause of death for Aaron (pictured).
His death has devastated fans of Major League Baseball from many different age groups, cultures, races, and creeds. However, it was Aaron’s life that made him the towering figure he became from home plate and beyond. Aaron’s legacy extended impeccably off the field as well.
The Hall of Fame slugger was born to Herbert and Estella Aaron in Mobile, Alabama on February 5, 1934. Aaron played in sandlots, then started his pro career in the legendary Negro Leagues in 1951. He made his way through the minor leagues until he was 20. In less than a handful of years, the future “Home Run King” would get his big break.
Aaron finally made his Major League Debut and started his 23-year-career with the then-Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves). Aaron’s “Hammerin’ Hank” nickname was well earned from the ferocity he showed while wielding his bats toward any pitcher’s fastball.
The numbers that Aaron put up in his overall career, within seasons, and during individual games were astronomical.
It took many years for his record of 755 career home runs to be broken by another player in Major League Baseball. In his rookie year alone, he racked up 13 home runs and an impressive 69 RBIs. Some baseball purists still consider Aaron to be the greatest of all time.
“The only man I idolize more than myself,” Muhammad Ali once said when referring to Aaron. That statement from Ali speaks legions of volumes coming from a fearless ringmaster who is still considered by many to be the greatest professional boxer of all time.
Aaron’s history-making status as an iconic giant was equally present when it came to the great acts of charity he carried out anonymously for the less fortunate people who were forgotten by society.
As one of the first black players in Major League Baseball, Aaron literally risked his life immensely – during an era where white pro-segregationist racists were threatening to murder him. Their damnable hatred of Aaron was only projected for one reason – he was professionally playing the sport he loved.
He would even get those death threats from fans of his own team during home games.
Like other legendary black men who bravely ruled professional baseball, Aaron stood tall in his fight for the dignity he deserved as an American athlete and ultimately, as a decent human being. Though Aaron was a physically strong man, it was his mental toughness that helped him survive during the most volatile time in U.S. sports history.
Though some of his most coveted records in the archives were broken, the outstanding and incomparable stature of Henry Louis Aaron will be unmatched forever. May his soul and rich legacy live on.