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ATLANTA, Georgia (AP/NBC News) — The baseball great and one-time home run king Hank Aaron has died. The Atlanta Braves said he died peacefully in his sleep early Friday. No cause was given.
Aaron endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth but went on to break the career home run record in the pre-steroids era.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of 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, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king, died early Friday. Hank Aaron was 86.
Hank Aaron’s obituary
Henry Louis Aaron was raised in Mobile, Alabama. The house he grew up in is now a museum bearing his name.
Aaron decided to become a baseball player at the age of 14 when his dad took him to watch Jackie Robinson play.
In 1951, at 17, he quit school to play for the Negro Baseball League’s Indianapolis Clowns.
By 1954, the player who would one day be known as “Hammerin’ Hank” broke into the Major Leagues.
Over the next 20 seasons, he hit at least 30 homers 15 times, 40 or more 7 times.
In 1971, Aaron had a career year and started to think about his place in baseball history.
“I hit 47 home runs, more home runs than I had ever hit in my baseball career was one reason why I thought at that time that I had a chance to break Babe Ruth’s record,” Aaron said.
Aaron tied Ruth’s record of 714 homers on opening day in 1974 and broke it four days later. Aaron retired in 1976 with 755 home runs.
He moved into the Braves’ front office as vice president and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
A long-time supporter of Civil Rights organizations, he co-founded the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, helping children develop their potential.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
He’ll be remembered as a hard-working, quiet man who worked magic with a baseball bat.