Baseball legend Hank Aaron, the Black power hitter who faced discrimination and death threats in 1974 as he toppled Babe Ruth’s record for all-time home runs, has died, according to CBS affiliate WSB-TV Atlanta. He was 86.
The Atlanta Braves veteran died Friday at his home, Aaron’s daughter told WSB.
Aaron’s records in Major League Baseball include becoming the first player in history to rack up 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He also logged an astounding eight seasons with 40 or more home runs. He ended his career with 755 homers, a mark that stood until 2007 when Barry Bonds, playing for the San Francisco Giants, hit home run No. 756.
All told, Aaron had a 23-year career in the major leagues. He signed with the Boston Braves in 1952. The team moved to Atlanta in 1966 at a time when Aaron’s success gave him prominence in the civil rights movement.
“I think it hit me when we played an exhibition game, and I don’t know when, in Macon. I think it hit me when I realized that I had some kind of role that I should be playing. I’m not talking about a baseball role, I’m not talking about somebody going out on the baseball field, someone who had a role to play to help other blacks like myself,” Aaron told WSB-TV in an undated interview.
Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975. He retired after the 1976 season.
Born in Mobile, Ala., in 1934, Aaron was one of eight children. He excelled at baseball as a youth but couldn’t play baseball in high school because only white students were allowed to play in that era. Aaron and had his first tryout for the as a 15-year-old for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He started his baseball career as a shortstop in the segregated minor leagues for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951.
Aaron was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.