Hank Aaron, one of the best baseball players of all time and longtime home run leader, died Friday at age 86.
Aaron spent most of his Hall of Fame with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves before spending his final two seasons back in Milwaukee with the Brewers. Perhaps best known for his 755 career home runs, Aaron was far more than just a power hitter. He batted .305 over his 23-year career. He still holds the all-time record for career runs batted in (2,297) and is No. 3 all-time in career hits (3,771).
Here are some of the best Hank Aaron stories featured in Sports Illustrated.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron achieved what was previously considered impossible. Nearly 40 years after Babe Ruth smashed his 714th homer out of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Aaron hit No. 715 in Atlanta.
One of the best hitters of his generation was showing exactly why he would someday go down as such. Aaron hit 323 that year, led the majors with 44 home runs and 132 RBIs and won the NL MVP award. With a chance to clinch the NL pennant, the Braves were tied 2–2 in the 11th inning against the Cardinals. Milwaukee had one on and two out when Aaron ripped a walk-off homer that sent his team to the World Series. The Braves beat the defending champion Yankees in Game 7 to win the franchise's first World Series since 1914. During the Fall Classic, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs and seven RBIs.
En route to a league-leading 44 home runs and 127 RBIs that season—the Braves' first in Atlanta—Aaron continued to terrorize National League pitchers and came into his own in the heart of Georgia.
With the Braves back in a pennant race for the first time in years, Hank Aaron's hitting dominance was once again on national notice. Atlanta won the NL West that season but lost to the Miracle Mets in the NL Championship Series. Aaron his .300 with 44 home runs and finished third in the MVP race.
Henry Raps One for History: Aaron notches his 3,000th hit, another milestone in a historic career (1970)
In front of a large away crowd (and Stan Musial) at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Aaron became the ninth player in MLB history to pick up hit No. 3,000, joining an exclusive club of Hall of Famers and legends of the sport.
Aaron's quest for 715 wasn't always rosy. Nearly two decades removed from the record, he looked back on what he endured as a Black man trying to reach one of baseball's most coveted records.
Hank Aaron's 755 home runs weren't untouchable. But as Giants slugger Barry Bonds approached the number—and eventually surpassed Aaron—Aaron's under-appreciated legacy would not be erased that easily.
In 2014, 40 years removed from the remarkable home run record, those who were involved with Aaron's special day still remember the importance of his becoming the home run king. From the pitcher to the ushers in the stands, those who were there recall that fateful day in Atlanta.