Henry "Hank" Aaron has died. The baseball legend, who once held the MLB record for career home runs, died at the age of 86, according to a report by WSB-TV. The tragic news was confirmed by Aaron's daughter.
One of the greatest players in MLB history, Aaron's career spanned 23 seasons -- 21 with the Braves when they played in Milwaukee and Atlanta, then two with the Milwaukee Brewers -- and saw him make history in 1974 when he hit his 715th career home run, breaking a record held by Babe Ruth, per Biography. His final career tally of 755 home runs stood until 2007, when it was broken by Barry Bonds.
Aaron was selected as an All-Star 25 times, won three Golden Gloves and led the National League in home runs four times, batting average twice and RBIs four times. His sole MVP was won in 1957, the same year he won the World Series with the Milwaukee Braves. While he no longer is the home run leader, Aaron still tops the career rankings for runs batted in, total bases and extra-base hits.
Aaron Was A Model Of Power Hitting Consistency
Aaron was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children born to Estella and Herbert Aaron. He exhibited a talent for both baseball and football from a young age, transferring from the segregated Central High School to attend the prestigious Josephine Allen Institute and join their baseball program. He left school at 18 to sign with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues. He would become the final player to play in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues.
He was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1952 and quickly worked his way up through the minors, making his MLB debut in 1954 at the age of 20. It didn't take long for Aaron's talent to shine through on the big stage, winning his first batting title in only his third season. The following season, he almost won the triple crown with 44 home runs, 132 RBIs and a batting average of.322. Those numbers were good enough to win the 1957 National League MVP and put the Braves in a World Series matchup with the New York Yankees. Milwaukee pulled off the upset and won in seven games, giving Aaron his only World Series win.
As he approached his prime, Aaron became a historically consistent power hitter. Between 1955 and 1973, he hit at least 24 home runs, with 15 of those seasons seeing him surpass 30. He remained a force at 39 years of age, hitting 40 home runs during the 1973 season, ending the year only one behind Babe Ruth's career record. He tied Ruth's record on Opening Day of the 1974 season before breaking it on April 8 in front of an estimated home crowd in Atlanta of 50,000. Following his record-breaking year, Aaron returned to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers of the American League. He spent two seasons with the team, primarily playing as the AL-exclusive designated hitter before retiring in 1976.
Aaron Became A Strong Advocate For Minority Hiring In Baseball Following His Retirement
Aaron returned to the Braves following his retirement, joining their front office as the vice president and director of player development, making him one of the first minorities to work in upper-level management in MLB. From 1980 until his death, he served as the team's senior vice president and assistant to the Braves' president. From 2007, Aaron used his role and status as a baseball legend to develop programs to encourage more minority participation in baseball.
In 1982, Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame, on his first year of eligibility. His approval rating of 97.8 percent was the second highest, behind only Ty Cobb's 98.2 percent approval in 1936. In 1990, he released his autobiography I Had a Hammer. Then-president George W. Bush awarded Aaron the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
Aaron was married twice. He and Barbara Lucas were together between 1953 and 1971, having five children together: Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile and Hank Jr. Following their divorce, he wed his second wife, Billye Suber Williams, in 1973. They had one daughter together, Ceci.