Hall of Fame Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron passed away this morning at the age of 86, per CBS 46 in Atlanta.
A native of Mobile, Ala., Aaron started his career with one season for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues before a 21-year run with the Braves that saw him become Major League Baseball’s home run king. He was with the Braves in Milwaukee then Atlanta before capping his career with two years back in Milwaukee with the Brewers.
Aaron became a staple of American sports history for what he did on the field. He was the MLB career home run leader with 755, a record that stood for 30 years until broken by Barry Bonds. He was a 25-time All-Star, the 1957 MVP, a World Series champion, an MLB Hall of Famer, and the No. 5 player of all-time by Sporting News.
While his on-field accomplishments are immense, what Aaron achieved and symbolized off-the-field carries his legacy further through both Baseball Americana and the history of progress in the Deep South. He was not able to afford a baseball bat or glove as a child, instead using bottle caps and sticks to hone his hand-eye-coordination. Years later, he would be on the executive management team of the Braves, owning car dealerships across Greater Atlanta.
Aaron also started his career with the Negro Leagues in the Midwest before moving with the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta, becoming the lone MLB team in the Deep South. He played in The Peach State during the tumultuous 1960s in the heat of public desegregation. Then, in 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run to pass legend Babe Ruth for the most all-time. Two fans ran onto the field at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but instead of acting in malice, they patted him on the back as he rounded third. It was a grand moment for baseball, but an even more symbolic one for baseball and for Georgia.
“Hammerin’ Hank” as he was affectionately referred, founded the Hank Aaron Rookie League program, helping to encourage minorities to take up the game he cherished. Aaron impacted a game, a city, a region, and an era, and his story will be told in fuller detail in the coming days as MLB remembers an icon. The city of Atlanta may love its tomahawk, but it will certainly never forget The Hammer.