Henry Aaron, who rose up from the depths of Southern poverty to become one of the towering figures in baseball history as well a bittersweet symbol of both American racial intolerance and triumph, has died today. He was 86.
When he retired in 1976 after a 23-year major league career with the National League Braves (spending 1954 to 1965 in Milwaukee, 1966-74 in Atlanta) before playing his final two seasons with the American League Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron had amassed staggering offensive numbers, holding the career records for most home runs (755), RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856), games played (3,298), at-bats (12,364) and plate appearances (13,941). He was second behind Ty Cobb in hits (3,771), though he held the NL record.
He is still the career leader in total bases and RBIs and is third in hits behind Pete Rose and Cobb. He was the first player in baseball history to amass 500 career home runs and 3,000 hits and the last player in history to be promoted from the Negro Leagues to the major leagues. Aaron appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games, won batting titles in 1956 and 1959, led the league in home runs four times, was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1957, and twice appeared in the World Series, winning the title in 1957 when the Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games.
ATLANTA — He is the one man that Muhammad Ali said he idolized “more than myself.” He became known to the world as “Hammerin’ Hank.”
Born in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron was one of eight children born to Herbert and Estella Aaron.
His family was so poor they could not afford baseball equipment, so he began honing his baseball skill by hitting bottle caps with sticks.