Tributes are pouring in for Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who passed away Friday at 86.
From former presidents to Aaron’s peers on the baseball diamond, many are celebrating the life of the one-time home-run king.
“Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
“Whenever Michelle and I spent time with Hank and his wife Billye, we were struck by their kindness, generosity and grace — and were reminded that we stood on the shoulders of a previous generation of trailblazers.
A child of the Jim Crow South, Hank quit high school to join the Negro League, playing shortstop for $200 a month before earning a spot in Major League Baseball. Humble and hardworking, Hank was often overlooked until he started chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record, at which point he began receiving death threats and racist letters — letters he would reread decades later to remind himself “not to be surprised or hurt.”
“Those letters changed Hank, but they didn’t stop him. After breaking the home run record, he became one of the first Black Americans to hold a senior management position in Major League Baseball. And for the rest of his life, he never missed an opportunity to lead — including earlier this month, when Hank and Billye joined civil rights leaders and got COVID vaccines.
“Today, 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. — Former president Barack Obama
“Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of our dear friend Henry Aaron. One of the greatest baseball players of all time, he has been a personal hero to us. A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come.” — Former president Jimmy Carter
Celtics legend and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell:
Heartbroken to see another true friend & pioneer has passed away. @HenryLouisAaron was so much better than his reputation! His contributions were much more than just baseball. Jeannine & I send our 🙏🏾 & deepest condolences to his wife & kids. #RIPHammeringHank #RIP @MLB @Braves pic.twitter.com/ONO49xEOKQ— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 22, 2021
Former Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who won the Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive performer in the American League in his final season in 2016:
The Red Sox posted a clip from the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park when Aaron was honored as part of the All-Century team:
Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez posted a picture from the time he met Aaron at Dodger Stadium:
The Atlanta Braves, the organization for which Aaron played played 21 seasons, shared the news of his death:
“Hank symbolized the very best of our game, and his all-around excellence provided Americans and fans across the world with an example to which to aspire. His career demonstrates that a person who goes to work with humility every day can hammer his way into history — and find a way to shine like no other.” — Commissioner Rob Manfred
Major League Baseball:
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown:
RIP to the legend and civil rights activists Hank Aaron 💯— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) January 22, 2021
Barry Bonds, who broke Aaron’s record for career home runs in 2007:
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms:
While the world knew him as ‘Hammering Hank Aaron’ because of his incredible, record-setting baseball career, he was a cornerstone of our village, graciously and freely joining Mrs. Aaron in giving their presence and resources toward making our city a better place. pic.twitter.com/hO7nkIYvVD— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) January 22, 2021
ESPN SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt:
The Milwaukee Brewers, where Aaron ended his career:
The New York Yankees
Hall of Fame third baseman and former Brave Chipper Jones:
I can’t imagine what Hank Aaron went through in his lifetime. He had every right to be angry or militant.....but never was! He spread his grace on everything and every one he came in contact with. Epitome of class and integrity. RIP Henry Aaron! #HammerinHank— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) January 22, 2021
Former Braves outfielder Dale Murphy:
Nancy and I pass our condolences to all of Hank's family today. So saddened to hear the news of Hank's passing. There was a certain spirit, even a reverence, when in Hank Aaron's presence that you could feel. Grace, strength, integrity. We were blessed to have known him. @Braves— Dale Murphy (@DaleMurphy3) January 22, 2021
- Looking back at Hank Aaron’s life, legendary career, and MLB records
- Shaughnessy: Recalling Hank Aaron’s only Fenway Park home run, and other thoughts
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.