Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron dies at 86

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(CBS) – Hall of Famer and one-time home run king Atlanta Braves legend Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died this morning at the age of 86 leaving behind an indelible legacy on and off the baseball diamond.

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934. He played in sandlots and briefly played in the Negro Leagues and minor leagues through his youth. At the age of 20, Aaron made his Major League Debut and started his 23-year-career with the then-Milwaukee Braves. His first season saw him finish fourth in the rookie of the year voting as he hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBIs. It was just the start of what became one of the most legendary careers in baseball history.

By the time he was in just his fourth season, he hit 44 home runs and drove in 132 RBIs and won the MVP award. The 1957 season started a lengthy run that saw Aaron hit at least 25 home runs in every season until 1973.

It was the 1974 season that saw Aaron smash his way into the national consciousness. On April 8, 1974, Hammerin’ Hank, as he was known, crushed a 1-0 pitch from Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing over the left field wall at Fulton County Stadium and broke Babe Ruth’s long-time home run record of 714 home runs in a career.

Aaron remains baseball’s runs batted in leader with 2,297 and total base leader with 6,856. Hammerin’ Hank finished his career with 755 home runs, an all-time record that stood for decades until Barry Bonds passed him and finished his career with 762 home runs. He was easily elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1982.

But Aaron was more than just a baseball player. He overcame racism in the deep south throughout his career and even received death threats while he was making his historic pursuit of Ruth’s record. All the while, he remained humble and continued to power through every hurdle that was in front of him.

In his bio from the Hall of Fame, a quote from the greatest boxer ever, Muhammad Ali accompanies it that reads Hank Aaron was, “The only man I idolize more than myself.” A fitting tribute to towering man who left his mark on the baseball field, society, and the fabric of America.

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