2021 has barely begun, and we’ve lost another legend.
Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron has passed away at the age of 86, according to his daughter. Hammerin’ Hank was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1934, and at the age of 20, he joined the Major Leagues. His 21-season career was spent mostly as a member of the Atlanta Braves, where he made history.
On April 8, 1974, Hammerin’ Hank hit the 715th home run of his career, breaking George Herman Ruth’s nearly 40-year-old record. This was one of the records most people thought was never going to be broken. Aaron amassed 755 home runs in his hall of fame career.
Like most Black athletes at the time, Aaron faced a ton of racism when he took the field and while off it. According to Sports Illustrated, Aaron received 930,000 pieces of mail in 1973, and his 715th home run was dubbed “the home run that changed America” because it helped ease racial tensions and his doubters.
He was also close with Muhammad Ali, who at the time was vocal about racial inequalities, and the boxer once said that Aaron was “The only man I idolize more than myself.” Even after he was done playing, he still spoke about the racism in sports, most recently Colin Kaepernick’s blackballing in the NFL.
Aaron told Roland Martin that he’s standing in solidarity with Kaepernick and believed he’s “getting a raw deal.”
“I think he’s getting a raw deal,” Aaron said. “I’ve been watching pro ball for a long time, and I think that if you look at all of the quarterbacks in the league right now, I don’t think anybody can do the things [Kaepernick] can do. I just wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing.”