The legendary Hall of Famer Hank Aaron passed away at the age of 86 on Friday, leaving behind a legacy that far surpasses the game of baseball.
It is insufficient to merely say that Hank Aaron was one of the best to play the game, because his legacy far surpasses baseball.
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born a black man in the deep South, enduring endless bouts of racism throughout his life.
The Mobile, Alabama native knew from an early age that he wanted to become a big league ballplayer, even through a segregated society.
His dream came true on April 13, 1954.
After several seasons in the Negro League and in the minors, Aaron was called on to start for the Milwaukee Braves when right fielder Bobby Thompson broke his ankle.
Not only did Aaron get his first shot at the majors, but took the opportunity and ran with it.
From that day forward Aaron played 3,298 games over 23 seasons, and created a legacy that will be among the elite in baseball history.
Hank Aaron went through hell, though, even after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier seven years prior.
Especially as the home run record approached, threats became more common and more aggressive.
Death threats loomed throughout his life, and after seeing the Kennedy assassinations and the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, he did not know what to expect.
Then on the night of April 8, 1974, “Hammerin’ Hank” did what many believed would never happen: he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
Sitting tied with the Babe at 714, Hank Aaron walloped a home run deep over the left field fence and took the home run title away from the Great Bambino.
In many interviews, Hank Aaron remembers the night because of his mother in attendance and the strong embrace he was given at home plate.
For baseball fans, Vin Scully’s reaction sets the tone for Aaron’s lifelong legacy.
"“A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol, what a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.” – Vin Scully"
This is what Hank Aaron was striving for. All he wanted was an equal opportunity for all men to play the game he loved, and he did just that.
Hank Aaron not only broke the record, but help solidify and continue the efforts of Jackie Robinson and many other black athletes to come after them.
On the field, Hank Aaron was a model of discipline, consistency and greatness, appearing in 25 All Star games over 23 seasons, but his work and leadership on the racial injustice front is unmatched.
Not only did he help continue Jackie’s efforts, but his character was never wavering after his retirement.
“Hammerin’ Hank” was a great man, on the diamond and off of it.
Aaron founded the Chasing the Dream Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 44 Forever program, as well donated millions to the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Hank Aaron was among the elite in the game of baseball, and his social justice efforts in a segregated time are just of the few things we loved about him.
His life changed the game of baseball and life for many across America, thus solidifying himself as one of the greatest American icons in history.
His life and legacy resonated throughout baseball, and even into the state of Texas, where Pudge Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan had kind words to say about the “Hammer.”
We here at Nolan Writin‘ want to extend our deepest condolences and prayers to the Aaron family.
Lastly, we want to thank Hank Aaron for keeping the life, love and legacy of the game of baseball alive forever and being such a crucial part in keeping it America’s pastime.
Thank you Hank Aaron. The baseball family will miss you dearly.