Baseball, the Black Community and Beyond React to the Death of Hank Aaron

Illustration for article titled Baseball, the Black Community and Beyond React to the Death of Hank Aaron
Photo: David Goldman (AP)

Just because death is inevitable doesn’t mean that we’re ever truly prepared for its arrival.

On Friday, the world lost an icon who was much bigger than the indelible marks he left on the Negro Leagues or Major League Baseball. Hank Aaron, who was the undisputed all-time home run king for more than three decades, died at the age of 86. He reportedly passed peacefully in his sleep.

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And as members of the baseball community and beyond grieve his loss, many have taken to social media pay their respects to the man who endured unimaginable amounts of racism in order to become one of the greatest athletes in the history of professional sports.

“We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank,” his former team, the Atlanta Braves, said in a statement shortly after news broke of Aaron’s death. “He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature. Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world. His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts.

“We are heartbroken and thinking of his wife Billye and their children Gaile, Hank, Jr., Larry, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren.”

MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred was asked by the MLB Network what debt today’s players owe to Aaron and here was his response: “Hank represents a generation [...] whose talent on the field helped change America in terms of issue of race that are so important in everyone’s mind.”

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Astros manager Dusty Baker, a close friend and former teammate of Aaron’s, released the following statement:

“Hank Aaron was the most important influence on my life, next to my Dad. 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.”

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On social media, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, MLB legend Barry Bonds, and the Atlanta Hawks were among an endless stream of public figures and organizations who took a moment to celebrate Aaron’s legacy.

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Others made it a point to denote the racial climate that Aaron endured as a Black professional athlete.

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While the 25-time All-Star is no longer with us in the physical, his impact and influence will undoubtedly remain forever.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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DISCUSSION

He ended the 1973 season with 713 home runs. Imagine sitting on that for the entire off season and read the stories of the letters he received basically telling him that he was going to be murdered before he could dare take the HR crown from Babe Ruth. I could go into the fact that Ruth looked like a black man, that nose y’all, but think of how twisted you have to be to write a letter to a man threatening him, his wife and children because he might erase your chosen one from the record book. Some white reporter asked him why he kept those letters, after what we have seen recently you all need to be reminded of your actions. Hank Aaron never let bitterness define him and oh he also thinks Barry Bonds should be in The HOF.