MEMORIAM

Prolific home run hitter, MLB great Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron

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Hank Aaron

By JARRETTE FELLOWS, JR.

One of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, the fabled slugger and second most prolific home run hitter of all time, died Jan. 22, 2021. He was 86 years old.

Aaron eclipsed the all-time homerun record of 714 by Babe Ruth that had stood for 33 years. The homer record was Aaron’s most notable achievement and broke what had been considered the most cherished accolade in American sports history — the MLB all-time homerun record — by Ruth, among the most idolized of American sports icons.

Early history

Aaron, who was born Feb. 5, 1934 in Mobile, Ala., broke into the Major Leagues on April 13, 1954, at age 20, was widely known by the nickname, Hank, who himself was surpassed in round-trippers by Barry Bonds with 762 homers. Aaron was a member of a prolific generation of power hitters of his era in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, that included Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt, Carl Yastremski, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, and Ed Matthews.

A newer generation of sluggers includes Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome*, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and David Ortiz comprised a younger fraternity of sluggers.

Aaron played 23 seasons — all of them for the Milwaukee Braves/Brewers, later renamed the Atlanta Braves, when the team moved south to Atlanta, Ga.

Homerun record’s herculean consequences

Hank never once went on the then-disabled list after his rookie season ended three weeks early because of a broken ankle. In the latter years of his career when he closed on Ruth’s all-time record, the FBI informed him his daughter was the target of a kidnapping plot. For nearly three years he required a police escort and an FBI detail for himself and his family.

He finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs — one shy of tying Ruth’s record — and believed he would be assassinated in the offseason. He had received enough letters to convince him so. He received death threats from 1972 to 1974—all for being a hero of the American pastime and electrifying hitter.

His all-time stats include 755 homeruns, 3, 771 hits, 2,297 RBIs, 240 stolen bases a .305 career batting average, and 2,174 runs scored. His homerun prowess included 20 homers for 20 straight seasons. Additionally, Aaron was a 25x All Star

Major League Baseball has suffered a grievous loss in recent months. The list includes Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn, Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Al Kaline.

Hank Aaron is survived by his wife, Billye; two sons, Larry and Henry Jr.; and three daughters, Dorinda, Gaile, and Ceci.