One of the few men to ever hold the title of Major League Baseball’s home run king has died. According to a report by CBS 46 in Atlanta, Hank Aaron passed away at age 86. The day of his passing and the cause of death are both unknown, and the Atlanta Braves confirmed the news shortly after it was reported.
Aaron is, by any objective measure, one of the greatest to ever grace the baseball diamond. Throughout a 23-year career in the majors that included stints with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta, along with a return to Wisconsin with the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of his career, Aaron won just about everything that a player could win en route to being a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1982. Aaron also spent a year at the very beginning of his career with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues.
Statistically, there will almost certainly never be someone who combined Aaron’s mix of productivity and longevity again. He is the sport’s all-time leader in total bases (6,856) and RBIs (2,297), and on April 8, 1974, Aaron became the man to break Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a career when he went yard for the 715th time. By the time his career ended, Aaron hit 755 home runs, a record that stood until Barry Bonds surpassed it in 2007.
Here’s Vin Scully calling Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. RIP Hank. pic.twitter.com/B53KqcvVs4
— Chad (@ChadBlue83) January 22, 2021
Aaron won the National League’s MVP award in 1957, the same year that he won his only World Series as a member of the Braves, and hit .305 in his career. But more important than any of his Herculean achievements on the diamond, Aaron will go down as one of the greatest men to ever play the game — Muhammad Ali once famously referred to Aaron as “the only man I idolize more than myself.” As a Black man in the South, Aaron was oftentimes the target of vitriolic, racist attacks, particularly in his pursuit of Ruth’s home run record, something that he discussed in an interview with CNN.
Hank Aaron couldn't enjoy his chase towards becoming the home run king because of the flood of racism and pressure directed towards him
In this 2014 CNN interview, he talked about the burdens of being a pioneer in that moment pic.twitter.com/fGqMsAe65G
— joon (@joonlee) January 22, 2021
Through everything, Aaron carried himself with a grace that earned him praise and honors away from baseball, like the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was awarded to him in 2002.