(CBS Local)- The Atlanta Braves announced Friday morning that Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and former home run king Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away at the age of 86 years old. The baseball legend leaves behind one of the sport’s biggest legacies.
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Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934, Aaron started his baseball career in the Negro Leagues in 1951, signing a contract with the Indianapolis Clowns. However, it didn’t take long before MLB clubs came calling, with the Boston Braves winning his services. Just three years later, in 1954, he made his debut with the then Milwaukee Braves at the age of 20 years old. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting that season after hitting .280 with 13 HR and 69 RBI across 122 games with the team.
He would go on to play another 22 seasons, all with the Braves, moving with the franchise from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. His consistent power, 20 seasons with 20 or more homers, 15 of 30 or more, led to his iconic moment on April 8, 1974 when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record with homer number 715. The legendary voice of the Dodgers, Vin Scully was on the call.
He was 40 years old when he topped that record. For years, he’d been chasing that record, all while deflecting racist hate.
“Death threats and letters of incredible ignorance. As if a guy with 713 home runs didn’t deserve to break or try Babe Ruth’s record,” said Ron Swoboda.
The Mets great was in spring training with Aaron just weeks before that crowning achievement.
“When you were around Henry Aaron, you saw the way he carried himself, and you admired that as much as you admired the player he was,” Swoboda said.
All told, Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs and a still record 2,297 RBIs. He also racked up the most extra base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856) of any player in history.READ MORE: New COVID Variant First Detected In New York City Spreading In Northeast
“You could get a raw steak by a hungry dog easier than you could get a fastball by Henry Aaron,” Swoboda said.
Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 receiving votes on 406/415 ballots (97% of the vote). After his career, he went on to serve as senior vice president and assistant to the Braves president. Aaron was an ambassador for the game and the Braves throughout his post playing career.
Even today, the best hitters in baseball get the Hank Aaron Award. He was one of the best to ever play the game.
“I hit behind Hank for eight years, Steve, and I wanna tell you it was a lesson every single day,” Joe Torre told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
“He epitomized grace and dignity and hard work. These are characteristics that we use as a shining spotlight of what it is to be a good human,” Overmyer said.
“There’s no question. I texted his wife … a short time ago and just said he’ll continue to be a role model for all of us,” Torre said.
Now, after 86 years, a man known for trotting around the bases finally heads home.
“God gives people certain talents to do certain things, but he also expects you to go beyond your talents sometimes. If you go out and try to work hard and prevail, that’s what life is all about,” Aaron once said.
Aaron was more than just a Hall of Famer; he was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for being undeterred in his pursuit of civil rights.
CBS2’s Steve Overmyer contributed to this report.MORE NEWS: Evolving Social Media Apps Emphasize Talking Over Texting
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