Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86

When Aaron celebrated his 80th birthday in February 2014, Billye Aaron and the baseball commissioner at the time, Bud Selig, hosted a par...

When Aaron celebrated his 80th birthday in February 2014, Billye Aaron and the baseball commissioner at the time, Bud Selig, hosted a party at the Hay-Adams hotel in Washington, where President Barack Obama and his family lived for two weeks before his first inauguration.

“There’s a young man who lives right over there whose life’s path was made easier by Henry Aaron,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said as he glanced at the White House across the street, Sports Illustrated reported.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled an oil painting of Aaron by Mr. Rossin to mark the occasion.

The Braves honored Aaron at their home opener on April 8, 2014, the 40th anniversary of his breaking Ruth’s record. Though weak from a partial hip replacement after a fall, he spoke briefly. The number 715 had been mowed into the outfield grass, where 715 fans held baseball-shaped signs, each with a number and a date signifying every one of those home runs.

Aaron, Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench were selected by fan balloting as the four greatest living players in a promotion leading up to the 2015 All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. They were introduced on the field before the first pitch.

For virtually all his major league career, Aaron competed against Willie Mays.

“It’s just not my way to be flashy or flamboyant the way, say, Willie is,” Aaron said in a 1970 interview with Sport magazine. “I have my own even rhythm, and I guess it just doesn’t attract the kind of attention that a more colorful style does.”

Both were raised in Alabama (Mays in Westfield and then Fairfield, about 225 miles north of Mobile), and they both played in the Negro leagues. But there was a perception of frostiness between them. When they were interviewed together by Bob Costas in 2008 for his HBO program “Costas Now,” they played down any antagonism. Aaron said there had been “competition” but “no resentment, no animosity.”

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Newsrust: Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86
Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86
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