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Baseball legend Hank Aaron dies at 86: Reactions from the sports world and beyond

Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron swings a bat at home plate during spring training in 1974.
(Associated Press)

Baseball legend Hank Aaron has “passed away peacefully in his sleep,” according to a statement released Friday by the Atlanta Braves. A cause of death was not immediately known.

Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s vaunted record of 714 in 1974 and finished his career with 755 home runs. Along the way, Aaron had to endure death threats from racist baseball fans who didn’t want to see Ruth’s record broken by a Black man.

“I don’t want them to forget Ruth,” Aaron, now second to Barry Bonds (762), said at the time. “I just want them to remember me.”

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Here’s how one of baseball’s all-time greats is being remembered.

“Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone’s list of all-time great players,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. “His monumental achievements as a player were surpassed only by his dignity and integrity as a person. 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.

“Hank Aaron’s incredible talent on the baseball field was only matched by his dignity and character, which shone brightly, not only here in Cooperstown, but with every step he took,” Baseball Hall of Fame chair Jane Forbes Clark said. " His courage while pursuing the game’s all-time home run record served as an example for millions of people inside and outside of the sports world, who were also aspiring to achieve their greatest dreams. His generosity of spirit and legendary accomplishments will live in Cooperstown forever.”

“This is a profoundly sad day for baseball and indeed for our entire country,” MLB Players Assn. executive director Tony Clark said. “On the field, off the field, for 23 remarkable playing seasons and beyond, Hank Aaron was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the phrase. Generations of players have walked, and will continue to walk, on a trail that Hank Aaron blazed with his determination, courage, singular talent and grace. We send our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and legion of fans throughout the game.”

Staff writers Mike DiGiovanna and Chuck Schilken contributed to this report.


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