Baseball player Hank Aaron and daughter Emily attend the premiere of Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” at the Ziegfeld Theatre on August 5, 2013 in New York City. (Shutterstock)
By Lexi Lonas, The Hill
Former President Obama put out a statement after the death of baseball legend Hank Aaron, calling him “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,” Obama said.
NEW: Former Pres. Barack Obama on the passing of Hark Aaron: “Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.” https://t.co/1hd8qjytpT pic.twitter.com/7ZOqWiMPDH
— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2021
Aaron died at the age of 86 after a lifetime of breaking records in MLB. He is the all-time leader in runs batted in, at 2,297; extra-base hits, with 1,477; and total bases, with 6,856. He is also second in home runs, with 755.
Obama recalled Aaron’s time as a child growing up in Alabama during the Jim Crow era.
“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,” Obama said.
As he began going after Babe Ruth’s home run record, “he began receiving death threats and racist letters—letters he would reread decades later to remind himself ‘not to be surprised or hurt,’” the statement says.
Aaron was among the first wave of Black stars to play in MLB after Jackie Robinson, who was the first Black man to do so.
Aaron was also one of the first Black men to be in a senior management position in MLB and continued to lead after he received the coronavirus vaccine along with other civil rights leaders in January, the statement said.
“Today, Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Aaron family and everyone who was inspired by this assuming man and his towering example,” Obama concluded.