MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — As we celebrate Black History Month we continue to remember the life and accomplishments of Hank Aaron who passed away on Jan. 22 at the age of 86.
Henry Louis Aaron was born in the month of February and on Feb. 5, 1934, Herbert and Estella Aaron couldn’t have possibly dreamed that 40 years later they would be greeting their son at home plate in Atlanta after he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
The chase brought out the good, bad and ugly in baseball fans, with Hank receiving racist mail and death threats.
” I got millions and millions of pieces of mail from people that were resentful. Simply because of the fact of who I was and they were not ready for a black man to break that record.”Hank Aaron
Longtime friend Tom Whithers was with Hank in the final days of the chase to watch his best friend’s back.
“I stayed with him for about 10 days. We would go back and forth to the store or wherever he wanted to go I was with him.”Tom Whithers
Number 44 became more than a great ballplayer, his strength and courage to overcome hatred became an example to others to follow. A young promising ballplayer from Mobile honored in death by two former presidents and a Civil Rights icon speaking at his funeral.
“He will always be with us, as Martin Luther King is with us.”
Hank’s name and memory will live on in his hometown. The Hank Aaron loop was the city’s first swing at honoring baseball’s home run king.
In 1997, the city hit another home run when the Baybears named their new stadium Hank Aaron Stadium.
“Opening night- 1997- he did say this was the greatest moment in his life.”Bill Shanahan
In 2010, Hank’s childhood home made national headlines when it was moved from Toulminville and placed on the stadium grounds as a museum. Hank invited some of his famous friends to come to Mobile to celebrate.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson has announced plans to honor Hank and Mobile’s four other MLB Hall of Famers with statues near Cooper Riverside Park.
Hank Aaron is gone, but will never be forgotten.