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Hank Aaron, baseball's one-time home run king, dies at 86

BREAKING: Hank Aaron, the baseball legend who endured racist threats with stoic dignity as he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record, has died at 86.

1/22/2021 7:43:00 PM

BREAKING: Hank Aaron , the baseball legend who endured racist threats with stoic dignity as he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record, has died at 86.

ATLANTA (AP) — Hank Aaron , who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around...

ATLANTA (AP) — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players, died Friday. He was 86.The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s longtime team, said he died peacefully in his sleep. No cause was given.

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Aaron made his last public appearance just 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to help spread the to Black Americans that the vaccine was safe.“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.

ADVERTISEMENTBut 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 be 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.

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.The Hall of Famer finished his career with 755, a total surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 — though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds finished his tarnished career with 762, though Aaron never begrudged someone eclipsing his mark.His common refrain: More than three decades as the king was long enough. It was time for someone else to hold the record.No one could take away his legacy.

“I just tried to play the game the way it was supposed to be played,” Aaron said, summing it up better than anyone.He wasn’t on hand when Bonds hit No. 756, but he did tape a congratulatory message that was shown on the video board in San Francisco shortly after the new record-holder went deep. While saddened by claims of rampant steroid use in baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Aaron never challenged those marks set by players who may have taken pharmaceutical short cuts.

Besides, he always had that April night in 1974.“Downing was more of a finesse pitcher,” Aaron remembered shortly before the 30th anniversary of the landmark homer. “I guess he was trying to throw me a screwball or something. Whatever it was, I got enough of it.”

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Aaron’s journey to that memorable homer was hardly pleasant. He was the target of extensive hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s cherished record of 714, much of it sparked by the fact Ruth was white and Aaron was black.“If I was white, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron said almost a year before he passed Ruth. “But I am black.”

Aaron was shadowed constantly by bodyguards and forced to distance himself from teammates. He kept all those hateful letters, a bitter reminder of the abuse he endured and never forgot.“It’s very offensive,” he once said. “They call me ‘nigger’ and every other bad word you can come up with. You can’t ignore them. They are here. But this is just the way things are for black people in America. It’s something you battle all of your life.”

After retiring in 1976, Aaron became a revered, almost mythical figure, even though he never pursued the spotlight. He was thrilled when the U.S. elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008. Former President Bill Clinton credited Aaron with helping carve a path of racial tolerance that made Obama’s victory possible.

“We’re a different country now,” Clinton said at a 75th birthday celebration for Aaron. “You’ve given us far more than we’ll ever give you.”Aaron spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves, first in Milwaukee, then in Atlanta after the franchise moved to the Deep South in 1966. He finished his career back in Milwaukee, traded to the Brewers after the 1974 season when he refused to take a front-office job that would have required a big pay cut.

While knocking the ball over the fence became his signature accomplishment, the Hammer was hardly a one-dimensional star. In fact, he never hit more than 47 homers in a season (though he did have eight years with at least 40 dingers).But it can be argued that no one was so good, for so long, at so many facets of the national pastime.

The long ball was only part of his arsenal.Aaron was a true five-tool star.He posted 14 seasons with a .300 average — the last of them at age 39 — and claimed two National League batting titles. He finished with a career average of .305.Aaron also was a gifted outfielder with a powerful arm, something often overlooked because of a smooth, effortless stride that his critics — with undoubtedly racist overtones — mistook for nonchalance. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner.

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Then there was his work on the base paths. Aaron posted seven seasons with more than 20 stolen bases, including a career-best of 31 in 1963 when became only the third member of the 30-30 club — players who have totaled at least 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.

To that point, the feat had only been accomplished by Ken Williams (1922) and Willie Mays (1956 and ’57).___Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at His work can be found at AP MLB: and

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May you rest in Heavenly Peace with the rest of the Greatest of the Ball Players for you where one of the Greats Rest In Peace ✌️ RIP, brother. Rest in Peace. 🙏🏾💔 Rest In Peace legend! A True Legend! Rest in Peace, Sir Americans only heard of Babe Ruth, but have no idea who Hank Aaron is Marie Curie is the first person to win 2 Nobel Prizes, in 2 different fields, no less; but few ppl heard of her This is structural racism and sexism intended to keep people of color and women as a 2nd class

Hmmmmm 🤔 didnt he just get that “ vaccination “? Hmmmm!👀 😢😢💕 R.I.P. Mr. Aaron. RIP Fantastic player and Human Being!! Wtf!!! Just two weeks after his CovidVaccine ... Too bad he got the vaccine 😀 R.I.P ❤️🥲 RIP HANK! NOW YOUR UP THERE WITH Eddie and Phil and many others. 'Hank Aaron dies shortly after taking the second round of covid vaccine' real headline

What a great man. The real home run King. Great Baseball Player too Right after covid vaccination Sad May he Rest In Peace TO THE AARON FAMILY!!!SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. WE LOST A GREAT MAN AND BASEBALL PLAYER. THANK HAMMERIN HANK!!!! God love him. He’s finally home. 🙏 God:s guest of honor! Awww Man....GOAT all the way. Hate to see a legend go....but he'll always be alive. History will never forget HankAaron. HankAaronRIP You deserve it.

The REAL Home run KING 👑 🙏🏽😔❤️ As on out of state Braves fan and an out of country fan we are now die hard Brave Fans and with them we were very very sorry to loose our hero! RIPHankAaron TheLegend Thank you. RIP Hank. MY LOVE AND ADMIRATION FOREVER PART OF MY CHILDHOOD LOVED YOU WINNER !!! REST IN PEACE OR HIT HOME RUNS

RIP Legend 🙏⚾️🙏 RIH Legend May he rest in peace ❤️🙏 A true great! Rest your soul. May your death two weeks after receiving the vaccine help guide others to choose wisely from their inner guidance. Everything that happens after the injection is a coincidence, but every PCR false positive that dies two weeks later is a Covid death

Rest your soul. May your death two weeks after receiving the vaccine help guide others to choose wisely from their inner guidance. Yes everything that happens after the injection is a coincidence, but every PCR false positive that dies two weeks later is a Covid death. 😪😢😭💔💔💔 RIP Dear Aaron !!! You will be Universally missed. We shall 'never forget' your greatness Sir. Love you.

RIP.. Hank Aaron may have endured racist threats with 'dignity,' but his life's testiment was not one of a 'stoic.'. Please honor his life for who he truly was as a man on & off the field. 'Stoic' was a term writer Bryan Ethier used for Aaron in American History Magazine in Jun '99 THE home run king. no asterisk by his numbers.

RIP Mr. Aaron Condolences Ahh, damnit. Rest well legend 'The 86-year-old sports icon received the first of two doses of Moderna’s vaccine on Jan. 5, in an attempt to inspire other Black Americans to step up to the plate and get the vaccine.' Hank Aaron today: ☠ Hank Aaron 2 weeks ago: 🐐🐐🐐 Hammerin' Hank Aaron was the Greatest baseball player.' Rest in peace!

RIP..THE BLACK HAMMER Oh no may he RIH Rest in Peace to the legendary Mr. Hank Aaron. sad!!!!!!!! so sad American legend. A giant of a man. 💔 I am so very sad. He was and still is one of my childhood heroes. Love and peace to a wonderful man and to a fantastic athlete. Peace and prayer for all May his soul Rest In Peace ✌️ Forever legend

Blessings to Hank Aaron's family and all those he loved. He was truly an inspiration. Take care. Why not title it....'Hank Aaron dies after trying to prove to African Americans that the vaccine was safe' Great legend, we actually got to meet him in St Louis. He was very nice man Wonder why far-left ap isn't reporting that HankAaron had recently taken the COVID19 vaccine? FakeNewsMedia

AP: Thanks Trump Oh no! The mCCrambis Basket Ball! Give Plush? 🙏🏈 My mom's favorite baseball player! She was angered by the fact that the Red Sox (our local team) owners were too racist to have Black players. She understood this despite having been born in 1914 to a family w/9kids & only having an 8th grade education.

When Hank Aaron stepped up to the plate, I was always possible.😇🙂 Hank Aaron is the greatest athlete in any sport that is underrated. Hammering Hank A True Legend of the game and a True Legend of Humanity and Decency and a man of Integrity and Love and Compassion !!! Love you Always Hank!!!!Heaven welcomes you!!!!!

RIP 💖💖 Rest In Power Hank Rest in Power...Hank Aaron. An honorable man. Who dared to cross the color barrier and lived to be honored by all. God rest your soul. Glad he got to see his country back on track before he had to Graduate Our Earth School! A wonderful Spirit who chose to live his Human experience w/honor, decency & character! A worthy American example for us all!😘

Rest in peace with our Lord Jesus Brother .. RIP Hank It's time for Braves to change their racist nickname to 'Hammers' in honor of Henry Aaron I remember Reds were playing Braves in Cincy HOF Broadcaster Marty Brennaman called Hanks Aaron’s home run that tied the record and he may have gotten the record in Cincy but he got it where he should of got it at Home in Atlanta RIP Hank Aaron 🙏

RIP RIP HankAaron, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, may he Rest in Peace One of the greats. Rest in peace. rest easy, Mr. Aaron ❤❤⚾️⚾️ HE JUST GOT THE VACCINE... Has Barry Bonds said anything🤔 Rest in paradise, Great One!!! ⚾✊🏾💪🏾 Hank Aaron was a gentlemen, a great man whom broke The home run record. I still remember as a little boy getting chills as he rounded the bases , and that fan running with him. You can call him Hero, Great Player, Family Man and Humble. A human being , thank you Hank Aaron. RIP

The REAL Home Run Champion! 44 HE IS THE HOME RUN KING I will never forget the day when he hit 715. RIP HANK AARON🙏🏿🌹 Hank Aaron just got vaccinated on Jan. 6, 2021. RIP 🙏🏾 One of the greatest to ever play the game!❤❤❤restinpower HammeringHank baseballlegend RIP Hank! Thanks for the joy of watching you play

This would be a good time for the Atlanta Braves to change their racist nickname while honoring their greatest player at the same time. Ahh, sad,sad, news. Surely the Angels have welcomed Aaron thru the sunbursts ~ the windows to Heaven My Dad took me to the 1974 all star game in Pittsburg. We were so excited to see Hank play. I remember it like it was yesterday! RIP! Say hello to my dad please!

His psyche and his soul were as chiseled as his body. History should remember 44 as a great human being who happened to hit home runs. Thank you, Big Guy! My deepest condolences to you his family. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 So sad my deepest condolences to his family and friends May he Rest In Peace RIP to a legend that did it *without* roids

🙏🌹🌹🌹 *Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (and may God accept HankAaron's gr8 soul)💯 🙏🏿 Was the reason I played baseball. Legend Hank Aaron dealt with more racism than anyone could imagine. I don’t like to think of how I would react to someone threatening my life. He just wanted to play the game he loved to play and be the best he could be. MLB respect love stophate

Impressive career and man. May God comfort his family. I hope it helps the family to know how much we admired him for his talent and perseverance. The real 🐐 R.I.P. RIP my boyhood hero. Thank you for some many wonderful memories. You were by far THE GREATEST. Condolences to the Aaron family. What a great man and ambassador for equality! RIPHankAaron

May he Rest In Peace. RIP. RIP Im so lame. I didn't know he was still alive. Thanks for all the awesome year of baseball!!! RIP legend Rip A pioneer. One of my dad's favorite players. RIP Hank. RIP Those of you who were not alive at the time will never understand how much Hank Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s career home run record captivated and consumed the nation. May hero, legend, and gentleman, Hank Aaron Rest In Peace.

😢 Rip 🙏 to greatest baseball player ever. Thank you for opening the door for Africa American. RIP Hank. You were a good man and you will be missed! RIP Rest in Peace Hank Aaron. Off to play baseball in heaven. A legend has left us. RIP HankAaron HankAaronRIP RIP Hank Aaron Rest in peace Condolences to his family & friends.

A true hero. Rest In Peace, Hank.🙏❤️ Always and Forever, the TRUE HOMERUN KING! R.I.P. Sir Grew up loving baseball. An amazing hero! Bless you and your family! Loved watching you , baseball is going to Miss You! Heaven gained an Angel May his rest be peaceful and his next game be with the Angels. Still the greatest home run hitter of all time. Hank didn't cheat to hit any of his.

One of baseballs all-time greats , RIP! Rip How did he not get 100% of the vote when he went into the HOF. Beyond dumb This upsets me. As a kid I worshipped Hank. We share the same birthday & I always loved him. RIP to a legend 😢 Damn! Rest in Peace Mr. Aaron. Truly a great baseball legend. I had the great fortune of meeting Hank Aaron in high school, he was so generous and kind - what a legend. HankAaron

🙏🏼 RIP to a great American💔💔 Rest is peace Hammerin' Hank. I was 15 yrs old visiting friends in San Antonio & watching pitcher 44 AL Downing pitching to you, 44. What an amazing moment. I didn't care you just hit 1 out against my beloved Dodgers I was truly happy for you & your achievement. Thx Mr. Arron.

He will be missed. A true athletic hero 😔🙏🏻 Rest in peace Mr Hank 🙏🙏 COVID? Babe Ruth 8,399 AB (714 HRs) Hank Aaron 12,364 AB (755 HRs) DO THE MATH! Babe Ruth is still the greatest 700+ HR hitter ever! 💯 So sad. When i lived in ATL in the 90s, he is the reason i took an interest in baseball. He was a soft speaking man.

Why doesn’t the headline state that he took the vaccine a couple of weeks back? RIP HankAaron REST IN PEACE YOU WILL BE WELL MISS 💯🙏🏾♥️ RIPeace HR King...... 😥 Rest In Peace brother. Prayers for your family. RIP❤️❤️❤️🥊 RIP Legend 🐐 A GREAT MAN RIP Hammerin’ Hank! Thank you for the memories! ❤️💙✌️ Hank Aaron was my favorite player growing up. Whenever my family made trips back home to Wisconsin, my parents always scheduled them to coincide with Braves' home games. A class act, in every way. RIP Mr. Aaron. 😢

Sympathy to all his family.... a great player/ a great man! Rest well - a true giant! RIPHankAaron Home Run King. Forget the steroid addicts. Rip/ may the lord be with with him and his family/ you will be missed but never ever forgotten/ you definitely did your thing brother/ you are a super legend Sad day is n ⚾

🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 😪 There was a point where Hank Aaron was getting thousands of pieces of hate mail, racist messages and death threats every day. What’s more disturbing is that if he lived this long, I can’t imagine how many of those people who sent him stuff like that are STILL alive... My heart is broken yet again in 2021! The Braves family,the city of Atlanta, MLB has lost the greatest (The King) of all time in Hank Aaron. I can’t begin to tell you how hard this hit me. I am devastated. God really must be a Braves fan (Phil,Sutton,and Hank). God Bless you Hank

May he rest in greatness! 🕯 RIP Hank! You will be in everyone’s memories. May he rest in peace! He was a legend among legends! So sad! 😞 RIP to the one the only Hammer'n Hank. The real home run king. A true star and icon! Rest In Peace Hank! He gets to join the many legends waiting for him in the next pick up game.

He stared racism in the face and didn't flinch. Legend. The best ever at his craft— and yet somehow an even better human. May peace be with you Hank and the entire Aaron family. The Legend has died. RIP Much respect to Hammerin Hank!! Love and prayers to the ones he leaves behind! So glad our host MinisterJSimm had a chance to meet him here on a few occasions here in Atlanta . Honor Respect HankAaron mlb class

Sweet Hammerin Hank has left us. Despite the light of hope from last Wednesday, 2021 is shaping up to be another shitty, unbearable year. I lay all this misery at the tiny feet of DT and all his miserable co-conspirators and the stupid mfers who follow him. Thank you Hammering Hank, Godspeed ❤️ RIP Hank

Attendance in Atlanta the night Hank Aaron hit 715 - 53,775. Total attendance the next 9 games of Braves home stand - 53,973. Braves front office hoped it would take a few games for Hank to reach 715 to help attendance. RIP to an all-time great players - and a great man. 😢😢😢😢😢 Another overrated person of attitude passes away... Who cares?

Heartbreaking. I miss my beloved daddy and the loving times we watched that legend play. RIP Mega Legend❣️❣️❣️ R.I.P. Thank you for all the memories. You will never be forgotten. Rip king of swing i feel so bad and dumb for saying this but idek he was still with us until obviously recently. idk why i thought the history he made in baseball happened way back in like the 20s 30s 40s or something omggg May he RIP 🙏🙏🙏

Mr. Aaron will always be the Home Run king to me. RIP Mr. Aaron. Sad day.... God Bless you Sir R.I.P HANK♥️♥️♥️ RIP HAMMERING HANK Sending prayers and condolences out to all of his family and friends. May he RIP. RIP Hammering Hank ⚾️ Rest in Power King RIP 🌷 My Thoughts And Prayers Are With The Family At This Most Difficult And Most Heartbreaking Time. My Thoughts And Prayers Are With His Friends And Their Family 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

😇If there's a baseball heaven, you know they have a hell of a team!! Just say he broke the Home run record please. Rest in peace. RIP. A noble man. RIP Hank ....not 'one time' home run king- The successor home run king after Ruth and Maris RIP RIP Mr Hank Aaron, a great Baseball player... This is sad. After Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays, Hank was one of my favorites as a kid.

So, so sad. 🕯 I had the pleasure of interviewing Hank Aaron in 1997 while writing and reporting for the Dallas Morning News. He was kind and gracious. It remains a highlight of my career as a recovering journalist. May God comfort his family. Hank Aaron Dude was simply legendary. On and off the field this man stood for greatness, equality and kindness. RIP Hammerin' Hank.🙏

He live to 86 years... He received the vaccination 2 weeks before, now he’s died. You guys sure he died of no cause? Somethings up if you asked me 🤔 I was fortunate enough (on several occasions) to be on the field and in the dugout with Mr. Aaron. I was a bat boy for the Texas Rangers in 1971. What a wonderful, gracious, and genuine person he was. RIP Hank.

Shortly after he took the Covid shot. GOAT I'm so SORRY! God Bless Hank & his Family! The best in Baseball! I was able to see Mr. Aaron at Busch stadium in Saint Louis playing against the Saint Louis Cardinals. Enjoy the field of dreams in baseball heaven today Hank. We lost the TRUE MLB HOMERUN KING of all time. Strong both mentally and physically, intelligent and the consummate human being. ⚾️⚾️❤🙏🙏

🥺 The big baseball diamond in the sky. RIP sir. You will. always be remembered. Steroids vs no steroids. No debate, Hank is still home run king. Rip Hank you are a real Class Act. Today we lost a true legend No questions asked about him receiving the vaccine just 2 weeks ago REST IN JESUS SIR “Hammerin’ Hank” set many 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.