Longtime home run king Hank Aaron dies at 86

Henry Louis Hank Aaron, the Hall of Fame recluse whose 755-year career was the gold standard in long-term baseball, has died. He was 86 years old.

We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank, Atlanta Braves President Terry McGuirk said in a statement. He has been a beacon for our organization, first as an actor, then in actor development, and always in our efforts to raise community awareness. His incredible talent and determination helped him achieve the best results, but he never lost his humility. Henry Louis Aaron was not only our icon, but one of the players of Major League Baseball and the world. His success in the field is matched only by his commercial success in the field and is crowned by his outstanding philanthropic efforts.

We are devastated and thinking of his wife Billy and their children Gale, Hank, Jr., Larry, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren.

Aaron is one of the biggest stars in sports, although he played for the lowly Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves throughout his career in the big leagues (1954-1976). He still holds the Major League (2,297), Total Bases (6,856) and RBI (1,477) records and is one of MLB’s all-time leaders in terms of runs scored (3,771, third all-time), games played (3,298, third) and runs scored (2,174, fourth).

But it’s Hank’s home run he’s best known for.

Aaron, who is six-foot-five and weighs 180 pounds, famously hit Babe Ruth’s house in less than a week during the 1974 season, beating his Los Angeles record by 715 points in the fourth set at left field of Al Downing as more than 50,000 fans celebrated the event in Atlanta. In one of baseball’s most iconic moments, Aaron ran through the ballpark – though he was briefly interrupted by two fans, including a young Craig Sager – and eventually touched home plate, where his teammates picked him up and his parents embraced him.

Aaron played two more seasons and finished his career with 755 home runs, which was a major league record until Barry Bonds beat him in 2007.

Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974 by beating the Dodgers by a score of 715 runs at the start of the season. He finished the season with 755, which was the highest mark in baseball until Barry Bonds broke it in 2007. Photo AP

Aaron ended his career winning several awards. He was the National League MVP in 1957 – the year the Braves won the World Series -, two-time NL baseball champion (1956, 1959), three-time Gold Glove winner in right field (1958-60) and a record 25-time All-Star.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and received a 97.8% rating in his first year. In 1999, the MLB created the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best hitters in the LA and NL.

Off the field, Aaron was a civil rights activist, himself a victim of racial inequality. Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, and did not play organized high school baseball because only white students had teams. As he prepared to leave Ruth’s house, his life was threatened by people who did not want the black man to break the record.

This is a great loss for the entire city of Atlanta, Keisha Mayor Lance Bottoms said in a statement. While the world knew him as the Hank Aaron Hammer because of his incredible record-breaking career in baseball, he was a cornerstone of our village who graciously and boldly gave Mrs. Aaron her presence and resources to improve our town. As Atlanta’s adopted son, Mr. Aaron is part of the fabric that helped put Atlanta on the world stage. Our gratitude, thoughts and prayers go out to Aaron’s family.

After retiring, Aaron became general manager of the Braves, hoping that other black players would find the position at the end of their careers.

On the field, Black can be super-giant, as he once said. But when our playing days are over, it’s over and we’re back in the back of the bus.

In 2002, Aaron was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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