ATLANTA (AP) — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth but went on to break the career home run record in the pre-steroids era, died early Friday. He was 86
The Atlanta Braves said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep. No cause of death was given.
Aaron made his last public appearance less than two weeks ago when he received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases.
But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king.
It was a title he would hold for more than 33 years, a period in which the Hammer slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Ali or Jordan.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set multiple hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases. But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others.
Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of our dear friend Henry Aaron. one of the greatest baseball players of all time, he has been a personal hero to us. A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come. We send our love to Billye and their family and to Hank’s many fans throughout the world.The Carter Center on behalf of former President Jimmy Carter
Heartbreaking news. Hank Aaron was an American icon and a Georgia legend. His career made history, and his influence was felt not only in the world of sports, but far beyond. Please join us in praying for his fans and loved ones as we remember the Hammer’s incredible legacy.Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
Today, the world lost a true baseball legend.
Hank Aaron was arguably one of the greatest players of all time and achieved greatness in an environment that was often hostile to Black players.
His legacy will endure forever and he will be truly missed.House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.)
Very sad to hear about the passing of the great Hank Aaron. His achievements on and off the field will never be forgotten.Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.)
I am saddened to hear of the transition of a true American icon both on and off the field, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, our Home Run King for 33 years, but our gentleman legend forever.
Rest in Power.Savannah Mayor Van Johnson
On April 8, 1974, before a sellout crowd at Atlanta Stadium and a national television audience, Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record with No. 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Aaron finished his career with 755. Barry Bonds surpassed that in 2007 —though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs.