Hank Aaron, whom most consider the all-time home run king and indisputably one of the greatest baseball players of all time, has passed away in his Atlanta hometown. He was 86.
One of Aaron’s daughters and the Atlanta Braves confirmed the passing of the all-time icon to Atlanta television station WSB-TV as well as on Twitter.
It is with great sadness we share the passing of our home run king, Hank Aaron. pic.twitter.com/ZdRuhqIaet
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 22, 2021
Henry Louis Aaron, who was born into extreme poverty in segregated Mobile, Alabama, had to learn baseball by hitting bottle tops with a stick. He famously left his hometown with just $2 and two sandwiches to his name, yet he went on to become the all-time Major League Baseball leader in RBIs, total bases and, most importantly, home runs.
According to WSB, Aaron credited his family for helping him nurture and harness his love of baseball as a kid.
“If it hadn’t been for my brother, my uncle, sharing their love and making me realize that — although I had a dream at that time — but if I keep looking and pursue it, that I could match it,” Aaron said on his 80th birthday.
In 1974, Aaron broke the immortal Babe Ruth’s home run record despite fielding more than 3,000 death threats and racist letters every day, ESPN reported, for daring to try to surpass that hallowed baseball milestone.
Aaron, whom Muhammad Ali famously said he admired more than himself, held onto the home run record for 33 years until it finally was surpassed by another all-time great and African American, Barry Bonds, though many sports purists dispute that.
Ironically, Aaron, who was called “Hammerin’ Hank” during his illustrious playing career, was given his first shot at the MLB as a 15-year-old by the Brooklyn Dodgers where Jackie Robinson first broke the color barrier in the sport in 1947. He didn’t make the team and had to return to high school, but it was a harbinger of great things to come.