Barack Obama Honors Late MLB Icon Hank Aaron: ‘One of the Strongest People I’ve Ever Met’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Barack Obama paused to honor the memory of the remarkable Hank Aaron, the pioneering baseball player who died Friday at age 86.

The former president posted on Twitter:

“Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Aaron family and everyone who was inspired by this unassuming man and his towering example.”

Atlanta Braves Confirmed Death Of Hank Aaron

The Atlanta Braves confirmed the death of Hank Aaron, Friday morning. The baseball icon had died in his sleep. Aaron spent all but two of his 23 seasons in the Majors playing for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

Barack Obama was 12 years old when Hank Aaron finally slugged his way into baseball history. On April 8, 1974, days after the season opened, Aaron slammed a high fast ball into left center for No. 715.

Relive one of the most electrifying moments in sports history.

Vin Scully, arguably the best broadcaster in baseball history, called the game. Scully said: “What a marvelous day for Henry Aaron.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers high fived Aaron as he ran the bases. Aaron’s mother and father were on the field to greet him.

And as Scully noted, a Black man received a standing ovation from fans in the Deep South.

Hank Aaron Received Hate Mail, Death Threats As He Approached Record

Hany Aaron said he received death threats and hate mail as he got close to the Babe Ruth record. One letter writer described how he planned on sneaking a rifle into the upper deck of Fulton County Stadium. The writer said he’d then shoot Aaron as he played right field.

Ruth’s standard stood for almost four decades. Ruth was a legend who played for the Boston Red Sox, then the New York Yankees. Ruth went by many nicknames, including the “Sultan of Swat.” The “Great Bambino” is another timeless nickname. He was one of the biggest figures in American pop culture. The Baseball Hall of Fame included Ruth in its inaugural class.

Aaron Said Racists “Carved a Piece Of My Heart Away”

On the 20th anniversary of his record, Hank Aaron talked of what his life was like leading up to No. 715. He told the New York Times:

“It really made me see for the first time a clear picture of what this country is about,” Hank Aaron said. “My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck … had to go out the back door of the ball parks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time (and) 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. They carved a piece of my heart away.”

Obama issued a longer statement to the media after Aaron’s death. As the nation’s first Black president, he reflected on Aaron’s grace as he endured racism in his career.

“Whenever Michelle and I spent time with Hank and his wife Billye, ” Obama said. “We were struck by their kindness, generosity, and grace. And (we) were reminded that we stood on the shoulders of a previous generation of trailblazers.”

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