Hank Aaron: Baseball icon and civil rights activist dies aged 86
Hank Aaron held the Major League Baseball record for most career home runs for more than three decades before Barry Bonds broke it in 2007; the long-time Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves slugger finished his 23-year career with 755 home runs
Last Updated: 23/01/21 9:47am
Major League Baseball icon and civil rights activist Hank Aaron has died at the age of 86.
The long-time Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves slugger held the record for most career home runs for more than three decades before Barry Bonds broke it in 2007.
"We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank," a statement from Braves chairman Terry McGuirk began. "He was a beacon for our organisation 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.
"We are heartbroken and thinking of his wife Billye and their children Gaile, Hank, Jr, Lary, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren."
Aaron, who was a senior vice president for the Atlanta Braves, finished his 23-year career with 755 home runs, including an 18-year stretch where he hit at least 24 every season.
Aaron began his career in the minor leagues in 1951 with the Indianapolis Clowns, before the Braves picked up his contract. He made his MLB debut in 1954 and spent the next 21 seasons with the Braves before ending his career with the Milwaukee Brewers (1975-76).
Aaron was in the news two weeks ago when he publicly received the first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine with his wife Billye, with the aim of easing doubts about the vaccine.
"I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this," said Aaron at the time. "It's just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country."
Aaron was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1982. Both the Braves and Brewers retired his No 44.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing to break Babe Ruth's long-standing record.
A 25-time All-Star and the 1957 National League MVP, Aaron also won three Gold Gloves and still holds the all-time records for RBIs (2,297) and total bases (6,856). He ranks second in homers, third in hits (3,771) and fourth in runs scored (2,174).
Aaron the civil rights activist
Aaron was an activist in the civil rights movement having been fuelled by a powerful inner desire after overcoming an impoverished youth and racial hatred to become one of the greatest and most consistent baseball stars of all time.
His profile on the Hall of Fame's website notes that boxing legend Muhammad Ali called Aaron "the only man I idolise more than myself".
Aaron joined the Braves management to become one of the few African-Americans in a baseball executive position after retiring as a player in 1976, and in 2002 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W Bush.
Aaron was viewed as one baseball's Black pioneers, and Bush was joined by other former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter last year in "tipping their cap" in a "salute to the men and women denied the chance to play in the Major Leagues".
Together with his wife Billye, Aaron also formed the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation to help children reach their potential.