On February 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama. “Hammerin’ Hank,” as he was known, became a baseball legend. Many of his records, including seasons as an All-Star (21) and runs batted in
(2,297) still stand. In 1974, Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking the record of 714 set by Babe Ruth. Aaron held the record for more than 30 years, until Barry Bonds broke it in 2007.
Like many Black baseball players of the 1950s, Aaron began his career in the Negro Leagues, where , as an 18-year-old, he played several months for the Indianapolis Clowns. He soon signed with Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves. The Braves held their annual spring training in Florida, where players stayed in segregated housing. Aaron and other Black players voiced frustration over being lodged separately from their white teammates, eventually compelling Braves vice president Birdie Tebbetts to find a hotel that would accomodate the whole team.
Aaron stayed with the Braves organization for most of his spectacular
career. Before he reached the majors, the franchise
moved from Boston to Milwaukee; partway through his career, it relocated again, this time to Atlanta. It was in Atlanta that Aaron hit his record-breaking home run, a feat broadcaster Vin Scully called "a marvelous moment for the country and the world." Not everyone celebrated Aaron's achievement, however. In his pursuit of the record, he continued to receive racist abuse, as he had throughout his career. "I had to have a police escort with me all the time," he said years later. "I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things have put a bad taste in my mouth and it won't go away."
Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, 1982, with 98% of the vote.
At 86, Aaron died on January 22, 2001.