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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Others made it a point to denote the racial climate that Aaron endured as a Black professional athlete.
While the 25-time All-Star is no longer with us in the physical, his impact and influence will undoubtedly remain forever.