Legendary Major League Baseball player and executive Henry “Hank” Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record with 715 in 1974, died on Friday. He was 86.
Born in Mobile, Ala. on Feb. 5, 1934, Aaron was one of eight children to Herbert and Estella Aaron. His family couldn’t afford baseball equipment, so he began by hitting bottle caps with sticks to develop his skills at an early age. He was devolved enough for a Major League tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 at the age of 15.
The “Hammer” started his career in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns, earning $200 per month in 1952. Aaron’s outstanding play earned him several offers and eventually a spot in the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves, who were offering more money at the time. They bought his contract from the Clowns for $10,000 on June 12, 1952.
After cutting his teeth in the minors, Aaron got called up to the play for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1955. The team dissolved to become the Atlanta Braves after the 1965 season. Aaron spent 21 seasons with the Brewers/Braves franchise before going back to Milwaukee for two seasons and end his career officially as a Brewer in 1976.
An illustrious 23-year career for the 20-time All-Star who hit 755 home runs during that time. Aaron’s record stood until Barry Bonds retired with 762 home runs in 2007. However, some baseball historians and record keepers refuse to acknowledge Bonds’ record due to his involvement with steroid use throughout his career.
Aaron became the first player in Major League history to record 500 homers and 3,000 hits. He went on to hit 40 or more home runs seven different times, finishing third in the MVP voting six times. He was named National League MVP in 1957 and was eventually part of the Brewers World Series Championship team in the same year. Aaron still holds three records in the Majors with 6,856 career total bases, 2,297 career RBI’s, 6,856 career total bases and 1,477 career extra-base hits.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 on the first year of eligibility.
In 1999, MLB created the Hank Aaron Award, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Aaron’s surpassing of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark. It’s awarded annually to the most effective batter in each respective league, as voted on by the players.
Aaron received the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton before leaving office in January 2001. He was later awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in June 2002.