One of the greatest sluggers in Major League history, “Hammerin’ Hank” stood atop MLB’s all-time home run leaderboard with 755 round-trippers until being passed by Barry Bonds earlier this century. The Hammer is still the all-time leader in runs batted in (2297) and total bases (6856) and, in the eyes of many fans, will forever be considered the game’s true home run king.
Named to an astonishing 21 All-Star teams, Aaron was a sensation from the moment he arrived on the scene in the Majors as a 20-year-old rookie in 1954. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting that year and would win an MVP Award just three seasons later — one of the countless accolades accumulated over the course of a historic 23-year career. Aaron batted .305/.374/.555 with 755 home runs, 2297 RBIs, 624 doubles, 98 triples, 240 stolen bases and 2174 runs scored during a legitimately legendary career. Along the way, he won two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, and a World Series ring with the ’57 Braves. He led his league in home runs, doubles and RBIs four times apiece.
Aaron was the model of consistency, durability and excellence, annually ranking among the game’s elite in nearly every major offensive category while rarely missing a day on the field. From his age-21 season in 1955 to his age-37 campaign in 1971 — all of them All-Star seasons — he averaged 153 games played and maintained an astonishing .315/.379/.574 output at the plate in spite of that Herculean workload.
Great as Aaron’s career on the field was, his legacy is rooted in far more than those mere numbers. Aaron overcame intense racism, hate mail and death threats as he closed in on breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714 — a hallowed mark in its own right that many thought would never be surpassed. His courage, perseverance and grace throughout the ordeal has served as an inspiration to countless fans.
Aaron’s charitable works following his remarkable career, chronicled here by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Matt Rothenberg, include the founding of the Chasing the Dream Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 44 Forever program, as well as millions of dollars donated to the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Aaron also donated his entire collection of baseball artifacts to Cooperstown and encouraged others do to the same.
The words “icon” and “iconic” are thrown around too often in today’s vernacular, and yet both seem to fall shy of describing Aaron’s status within the sport’s history. The name “Hank Aaron” is emblematic of greatness and will forever be woven into not only into the tapestry of baseball’s rich history but into the history of the country itself. We at MLBTR extend our condolences to Aaron’s family, friends, loved ones, former teammates and legions of fans around the world. Rest in peace, Hammer.