Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron wasn’t just a fantastic baseball player who set a slew of records. The Mobile, Alabama, ball player became a pivotal person in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement who admitted in a video released during the Super Bowl that he knew exactly what his job was – and it wasn’t just about hitting homers.
For more than three decades, everyone remembered Aaron as the player who hit more home runs than any other baseball player in history. But he also was outspoken about racism in Major League Baseball and repeatedly broke racial barriers while in the spotlight at home plate.
The baseball star shared in a video aired during the Super Bowl that Atlanta was “really, truly a home to me.”
“The most amazing thing about Atlanta was the fact that you had so many great Civil Rights leaders here … there was a lot of hope riding on their shoulders,” he said in the video.
“I was only capable of doing so much. They were expecting me to hit a home run every time I went up to the plate, which you couldn’t do no matter whether you were 10 Babe Ruth’s or not.”
Aaron played for the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent some time in the Negro American League before being brought up to the majors, according to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.
Atlanta is so much more than just a city to Henry Aaron. pic.twitter.com/TRuJ3eBDli— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 3, 2019
Even after Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s home run record when he nailed his 715th home run, the baseball legend still received death threats, hate mail and at one time, a plan was uncovered about kidnapping one of his daughters.
“With the help of a lot of people in this city, I understood what I was here for and that was to play baseball to the best of my ability, showing that people, if given the opportunity, can do the same thing that they can do, and hope that everything I accomplished would transcend to other black ball players,” he said.
Even after his exceptional baseball career ended, Aaron continued to make waves in baseball. Then Braves owner Ted Turner named him vice president of player development. He remained with the team’s program, helping guide players to success.
By the time his baseball career ended, “Hammerin’ Hank” had racked up a total of 755 home runs and set 12 additional major league records, as well as three Gold Glove awards. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.