Sports

Atlantans Discuss Life, Legacy, Impact Of Longtime ‘Home Run King’ Hank Aaron

Baseball Hall of Famer Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died Friday at 86.
Baseball Hall of Famer Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died Friday at 86.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press file

Atlanta, along with the rest of the world, is paying tribute to Hall of Famer Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron.

The baseball great, who broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, died Friday at 86. The cause of death was not immediately released.

Aaron’s last public appearance was earlier this month. He joined several other civil rights leaders in getting the COVID-19 vaccine at Morehouse School of Medicine. His last Twitter post documented the event, where Aaron mentioned he was proud about getting vaccinated.

The gifted outfielder known for his powerful arm was born in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 5, 1934. It’s reported that he was one of eight children born to Herbert and Estella Aaron.

The longtime Home Run King played for Negro Leagues and minor leagues before gaining national attention.

Aaron set myriad career hitting records and played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1954 through 1976. At the age of 20, he began his 23-year career with the Milwaukee Braves, now known as the Atlanta Braves.

Aaron fought against racial barriers throughout his life and career.

He was harassed and received death threats and hate mail as he approached Ruth’s record of 714 home runs. According to several media outlets, the taunting and threats came from people who didn’t want a Black man to break Ruth’s record. Aaron eventually tied Ruth’s record and then surpassed it on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Finishing his baseball career with 755 homers, the talented player who was nicknamed “Hammer” and “Hammerin’ Hank” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

In 2002, he received the nation’s highest civilian honor. Former President George W. Bush presented Aaron with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Aaron also was a businessman and the senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves.

Aaron, who was also a father and husband, dedicated his time to many philanthropic efforts in Atlanta.

On Friday’s edition of “Closer Look,” host Rose Scott talks with several guests about Aaron’s life, legacy and impact.

Guests:

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin
  • C.J. Stewart, a former Chicago Cubs outfielder and the co-founder of L.E.A.D.’s Ambassador Program
  • Ron Thomas, director of the journalism and sports program at Morehouse College
  • Denis O’Hayer, host of the WABE podcast “Political Breakfast
  • Atlanta Technical College’s Dr. Victoria Seals
  • Doug Shipman, a Kingian Nonviolence scholar and the founding CEO of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

 To listen to the full conversation, click the audio player above. You can find more of WABE’s extensive coverage of Hank Aaron’s life and legacy here.

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