Hank Aaron’s legacy is always bigger than baseball – a Hall of Famer who rose to fight racial inequality amid hate.
Hank Aaron, Bigger Than Baseball
The time has come for the baseball king, who lived through the dangers of daily life’s existence. Hank Aaron passed away on Friday at the age of 86. He was hitting home runs throughout his professional career and hitting what needs to be corrected in a society flawed by color, race, and perspective.
Aaron’s entire career revolved around baseball and fighting for the civil rights of the oppressed and the racism victims. He used to keep his letters of appreciation, memories – and even death threats, which remind him that surviving a single day is already an accomplishment.
“He was very clear-eyed about America, but also a very positive person. That’s one of the wonderful things about being in his company and talking with him about the most difficult issues involving race and opportunity and inequality. There was always a sense of hopefulness and calm and focus about him, which I found incredibly comforting,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the seventh president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) said, in an interview with the MLB.
In 2005, Aaron received the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the LDF. The Hall of Famer outfielder has been with the LDF for ten years. Billye, his wife, served the organization as a board of director for 45 years.
Last summer, the MLB and the team owners pledged a donation to the NAACP LDF to extend its campaign on racial justice and equality. The organization has been voicing protests against the killing of several Black people, including George Floyd, Eric Garner, and others.
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, a young Hank’s life was marred by many conflicting troubles around him. His father, Herbert Aaron, struggled to provide for their needs in a small house with his seven siblings and his mother.
According to a CBS report, Hank Aaron was interviewed by the MLB Network in 2010. He said that his mother would instruct him to go under his bed when they heard the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan marching on the streets. He will just come out until he is told to do so.
When the first Black American, Jackie Robinson, joined the MLB, Aaron was only 13 years old. He chased Robinson’s ideals in life at his age- to play baseball and fight for the injustice in their race. Hank started his journey in Mobile.
How delighting it is to think that a former child who only dreamt like Robinson will make his dream come true after five years. He played for the Indianapolis Clowns and later became a member of the Milwaukee Braves. His transfer spelled a ton of difference, as he shattered the discrimination dilemma upon joining the South Atlantic League.
There was a time when he leveled up his expectations of himself. When he passed Babe Ruth in all-time home runs, Aaron was living between life and death through many mails and letters filled with hate and death threats.
The past era was a white man’s game, and Aaron was hellbent to break every record despite the racial barriers. He would go to the ballpark’s back exit for his safety while guards were surrounding him. He was in grave danger at the time, and his children were on the verge of a possible kidnapping.
In a report by NBC, “Hammerin’ Hank” became the third Hall of Famer to pass away this year with Dodgers’ legend Tommy Lasorda and pitcher Don Sutton, who played for five teams.
It is a heartbreaking loss for the baseball kingdom to know the passing of a great legend. His legacy on-and-off the field will carry on. It does defy how a person with many dreams can reach his achievements despite color and race.
Aaron notched 755 home runs, 2,174 runs, 2,297 RBI, 3,771 hits, 240 stolen bases, and 624 doubles in his 23-year career in the MLB.
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