One of Major League Baseball’s greatest players and one of its greatest power hitters has died.
Henry “Hank” Aaron was baseball’s former ‘Home Run King.’
The Atlanta Braves organization announced his death on Friday. He was 86.
The Hall of Fame slugger was widely considered a great and humble leader who transcended the game of baseball.
To Texas Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley, "Hammerin’ Hank" was a heroic figure.
“To me, as a Black man in the game of baseball, he has been such a big deal because I believe in living your life with dignity and respect and honor and these are things that he exemplified,” Beasley said. “That’s the thing about him that I’ve always respect, is the way he carried himself as a man. I’ve never heard anything negative about Hank Aaron. Never.”
For Grand Prairie resident and former major league pitcher, Claude Osteen, Aaron was a formidable opponent.
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“You found out how good you were if you faced him,” Osteen said. “Anytime you went into Atlanta, Henry was always on your mind.”
Osteen remembered consistently trying to find "an edge" of the powerful hitter.
“I probably faced him over a hundred times,” he said. “I have great memories of all the history between us. Having pitched against him so many years and realizing what a great player he was.”
Osteen perfected a "slow curve ball" he was told could fool Aaron.
“He took the pitch because he was fooled and the umpire never seen me throw the pitch and he blew the call,” he said with a smile. “I kind of won the battle but lost the war.”
Another baseball great remembered Aaron well.
“We loved him. He was our pride and joy,” Eddie Robinson said. “He was a nice man, all of his teammates loved him, front office people loved him. He was first-rate.”
Robinson celebrated his 100th birthday in December with a drive-thru parade at his Fort Worth home.
He honored Aaron’s impact on the nation.
“He stood up for Black Americans and he was just the right kind of guy in all ways. He handled himself very well in all situations,” Robinson said.
Robinson was the general manager of the Atlanta Braves when, despite death threats, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974.
“We wanted to draw a lot of people that were coming to the park to watch him hit a home run to break the record and he broke it in the first night,” he said.
Who can forget the new "Home Run King," from segregated Alabama, receiving a standing ovation in the South?
“The thing about that is he wished he was able to celebrate breaking the record how most people would celebrate it,” Beasley said. “He couldn’t really celebrate it because he received a lot of hate mail and death threats.”
Robinson was also there when Aaron wanted to be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, to reunite with his old teammates.
“He wanted to go into the Hall of Fame as a Brewer, and we understood that. I initiated the deal that sent him back to Milwaukee,” Robinson said. “He just wanted to represent that city. That city was kind to him.”
Aaron’s passing was a sad surprise for these three North Texans.
His legacy, they are certain, will live on.
“Kind of carry the torch for those who come after me and I think he paved the way,” Beasley said. “He was a great role model.”