“It is with great sadness we share the passing of our home run king, Hank Aaron, who passed away peacefully in his sleep,” his former team, the Atlanta Braves, said in a statement.
The cause of death was not disclosed.
Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 following an illustrious MLB career highlighted by 755 career home runs. Aaron famously broke Ruth’s longstanding home run record on April 8, 1974 — hitting his 715th homer at home in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Aaron’s incredible achievement came in the shadow of hate and death threats from people who did not want a Black man to claim such an important record.
As he was chasing Ruth’s record, Aaron was taunted daily at ballparks, received threats on his life and was sent thousands of racist hate mail. He said he didn’t read most of the mail but kept some as a reminder.
“There were times during the chase when I was so angry and tired and sick of it all that I wished I could get on a plane and not get off until I was someplace where they never heard of Babe Ruth,” he wrote in his “I Had a Hammer” autobiography.
“But damn it all, I had to break that record. I had to do it for Jackie (Robinson) and my people and myself and for everybody who ever called me a [N-word].”