Baseball icon, former HR king Hank Aaron dies at 86
Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Hall of Famer and former home run king Henry "Hank" Aaron died Friday morning at age 86.

The Atlanta Braves said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep.

"Besides being one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hank was a wonderful and dear person and a wonderful and dear friend," former MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement, according to The Athletic's Will Sammon.

Selig added: "Aaron was beloved by his teammates and by his fans. He was a true Hall of Famer in every way. He will be missed throughout the game, and his contributions to the game and his standing in the game will never be forgotten."

Aaron, who would've turned 87 on Feb. 5, recently made a public appearance where he was vaccinated for COVID-19 and offered his support to the endeavor.

"Hammerin' Hank" made his major-league debut with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 at the age of 20 after stops in the Negro Leagues and minor leagues. He went on to hit 755 homers during a legendary career that saw him earn 25 All-Star Game selections and the 1957 Most Valuable Player award.

On April 8, 1974, Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record when he sent a 1-0 pitch from Dodgers pitcher Al Downing into the left-field stands at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Aaron's 715th homer is widely considered as one of the greatest moments in sports history. Barry Bonds would break Aaron's record in 2007.

Along with his baseball accomplishments, Aaron is also widely respected for enduring racial injustice with class and dignity throughout his career. The Mobile, Alabama, native played during the Jim Crow era, which forced him to be separated from his team because of his skin color.

During his chase to break Ruth's home run record, Aaron apparently received more than an estimated 3,000 letters a day with much of them written by racists, according to an ESPN special written by Larry Schwartz.

"Hank Aaron was the most important influence on my life, next to my dad," Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said about his former teammate and close friend. "He was the best person that I ever knew, and the truest, most honest person that I ever knew.

"He taught me how to be a man and how to be a proud African American. He taught me how important it was to give back to the community and he inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Hank impacted my life, my family, and my world, both on and off the field. He was a great man."

Aaron retired following the 1976 season. He remains baseball's all-time leader in RBIs (2,297) and total bases (6,856).

The "Hammer" was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, appearing on 406 of a possible 415 ballots.

Comments
Baseball icon, former HR king Hank Aaron dies at 86
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox