Today we remember Hank Aaron, the baseball legend who changed the face of the sport. Aaron died today at age 86, but his legacy as an all time great will live on.
Aaron was raised in Alabama during the Jim Crow era. He practiced his swing using a stick and bottle caps because his parents couldn’t afford baseball equipment. Still he found the passion and perseverance to dream of making it to the Major League. In 1954 he did just that, debuting with the Milwaukee Braves. By the end of his rookie year he was nick-named “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank” because of his powerful swing. During his 23-year major league career he hit 755 total home runs, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714. Aaron held the record for 33 years. After his retirement, he stayed involved in the sport in managerial roles, serving as the Senior Vice President of the Atlanta Braves. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1999 the MLB created the “Hank Aaron Award” in his honor.
Aaron’s impact and influence stretched beyond sports. In 1976, the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal, which honors Black Americans for outstanding achievements. In 1995, he established the Chasing the Dream Foundation, which provides grants for children to pursue their passions. Bill Clinton presented Aaron with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. The following year he received an even higher honor when President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom–the highest honor a civilian can receive. These accomplishments are a testament to the type of person Aaron was both on and off the field. Ebony followed Aaron throughout his career and we will honor the bright light he brought to this world by continuing to dream.