Hank Aaron, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who marked his career by fighting racial prejudice as he broke the major league’s home run record, has died. He was 86.
Aaron passed away on Friday morning after having a massive stroke, according to a source. The Twitter account of the Atlanta Braves, however, announced his passing.
Many in the industry expressed their sadness when they find out about Aaron’s passing.
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Terry McGuirk, the chairman of the Atlanta Braves, released a statement. He said: “We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank. He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature. Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world. His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts.”
Tony Clark, the MLBPA director, also released a statement. In it, he said: “This is a profoundly sad day for baseball and indeed for our entire country. On the field, off the field, for 23 remarkable playing seasons and beyond, Hank Aaron was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the phrase. Generations of players have walked, and will continue to walk, on a trail that Hank Aaron blazed with his determination, courage, singular talent and grace. We send our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and legion of fans throughout the game.”
A Hall of Famer’s Career
Aaron’s career in the major leagues spanned 23 seasons. He spent 21 of them with the Braves. He debuted in 1954 in Milwaukee at the age of 20 and retired in 1976.
Despite this impressive track record, baseball’s major honors seem to elude him. He only received one league MVP award and only one World Series title, which he both received in 1957.
One of the things he’s most well known for is breaking the most coveted record in baseball. In April 1974, he hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714.
Aaron Faced Racial Prejudice
At the time, not everyone celebrated this with him. Many expressed blatant racial hatred towards him through letters. He even received death threats. Despite all these, however, Aaron did not let it affect him and his performance while playing.
And despite how painful they are, Aaron said he kept the letters.
In 2014, he revealed to USA Today Sports why he did. He said it was “To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”
Aaron retired from his baseball career with a total of 755 home runs. He held this record for 40 years, and Barry Bonds only broke the record in 2014.
Aaron still holds baseball’s all-time record for most runs batted in, with 2,297. He’s said the ability to bring his teammates around the bases to score was more important to him than hitting home runs. He also remains the all-time leader in total bases with 6,856.
Did the Covid Vaccine Kill Hank Aaron?
On Jan. 5, 2021, the Baseball Hall of Famer received the vaccine against COVID-19 in Georgia. He was hoping to show his fellow African Americans that the vaccines are safe. He even urged his followers on Twitter to receive their shots.
“I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine. I hope you do the same!” he wrote on Twitter.
I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine. I hope you do the same! https://t.co/RAlkmkCRra
— Hank Aaron (@HenryLouisAaron) January 5, 2021
Because of his sudden passing just a few weeks after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, some are speculating that the vaccine caused his death. Whether Aaron’s passing is actually an effect of the vaccine, however, is unconfirmed.
He is survived by his wife, Billye, and his five children.