Updated: Jul 24
The world mourned a baseball icon and a prominent civil rights activist with the passing of Hank Aaron on Jan. 22, 2021.
“He was my hero growing up,” said CAU baseball coach Kentaus “K.C.” Carter, who was born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Through Aaron’s exceptional performances in Major League Baseball, he became Carter’s idol.
At 6 feet, 180 lbs., Aaron played for the Negro American League for one season with the Indianapolis Clowns, two seasons in the minor league affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves and 22 years in the MLB with the Atlanta Braves, originally the Milwaukee Braves, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
“He wasn’t the biggest or strongest dude,” CAU senior outfielder Joshua Oliver said. “He just had a lot of fundamentals, and it shows you can be any size and succeed in this sport.”
One of Aaron’s most iconic and memorable moments was when he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714 homers, which lasted for nearly 40 years, on April 8, 1974 while facing death threats and racist hate mail.
“For him to set the home run mark in Atlanta just speaks volumes on how far he went and how one game can change the whole landscape of how people feel about you regardless of the color of your skin,” Carter said.
For people who didn’t witness the historic home run, paintings of it around Atlanta still resonates with the Black community.
“Being able to go back and visit the original wall from the [Atlanta]-Fulton County Stadium where he broke the record at, it’s still something I get a shock at every time I see it,” Oliver said.
When Aaron finished his career, he held the MLB career record for home runs with 755 home runs, and he still holds MLB career records for 2,297 career runs batted in, 6,856 career total bases, 1,477 career extra-base hits and 25 career all-star appearances.
Carter taught his players the history of Black baseball players like Aaron and the segregation, racist obscenities, hate mail and death threats they endured to integrate the MLB during the Civil Rights Movement.
“He paved the way for Black kids to play baseball,” Carter said.
While he was stellar on the diamond, his impact off the field continues to inspire African Americans.
When Aaron retired, he and his wife started the Chasing the Dream Foundation in 1994. Its mission is to promote youth development by providing funding to programs that support the achievements of youth with limited opportunities and to enable them to develop their talents and pursue their dreams. Further, Aaron drove to increase diversity across every aspect of baseball.
“Hank Aaron is the example I inspire to be, not just as an athlete but as a person in general,” Oliver said.
Aaron’s death has devastated the world, but his impact will remain. His games, interviews, initiatives and street murals will continue to galvanize African Americans.
“Anytime you see his face, you know what all he did for not only the city of Atlanta but the Black community in general,” Oliver said.
This story has been originally published in Clark Atlanta University's student newspaper - the Panther. For inquiries, email James McJunkins: email@example.com