By Tyronda James
“I’m hoping someday that some kid, black or white, will hit more home runs than myself. Whoever it is, I’d be pulling for him,” Hank Aaron.
Born, Henry Louis Aaron on February 5, 1934, he passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife, Billye, and five children, Gaile, Hank Jr, Lary, Dorinda and Ceci.
For over three decades, Aaron was the home run king, passing Babe Ruth in 1974 on the all-time list, at age 40. He played for 23 major league seasons debuting as a 20-year-old for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.
Before his retirement in 1976, Aaron was a 25-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and two-time batting champion during his 21 seasons in the Braves uniform. He was named the National League MVP in 1957, helping Milwaukee win the World Series that season, the franchise’s second of three World Series’ titles.
“Hammerin’ Hank,” held many major-league records, including 20 seasons of 20 or more homers, extra-base hits, total bases and RBI – the latter two he still holds today.
“We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank. He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts,” Terry McGuirk, Braves Chairman said.
“His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts.”
Philanthropy and desire to give back to society, led to Aaron’s establishment of the Chasing the Dream Foundation in 1995. The foundation provided grants to more than 755 children across the country, assisting children between the ages of nine and 12 realize their dreams of seeking advanced study in music, art, writing, dance and sports.
The foundation later transitioned into the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream “44 Forever” program, honoring Aaron’s retired Braves jersey number. Through the generosity of Major League Baseball, the program annually provides financial assistance to 44 young people to further develop their talents and pursue their dreams, exclusively at Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.
In 2010, the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Four-to-Four Scholarship program was created providing four-year scholarships to students wishing to pursue dreams of higher education.
“His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature,” McGuirk said. “Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world.”
After his retirement, Aaron worked in the Braves front office, as Senior Vice President. Aaron also served as Director of Player Development overseeing the development of many players, including two-time MVP Dale Murphy.
Aaron was recognized with the introduction of Major League Baseball’s Hank Aaron Award and also received the first Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in 2003.
Former United States President, Bill Clinton said the longer life went on for Hank Aaron, the more graceful he became.
“I don’t want them to forget Babe Ruth, I just want them to remember me,” Henry “Hank” Aaron.
Funeral services honoring Aaron were held Jan. 27 at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, aired live on MLB Network and streamed at www.mlb.com.