50 years after historic home run, Hank Aaron gets a stamp and a statue

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50 years after historic home run, Hank Aaron gets a stamp and a statue
An image provided by the U.S. Postal Service shows a commemorative Forever stamp honoring baseball legend Hank Aaron. The stamp was announced on Monday, April 8, 2024, the 50th anniversary of Aaron’s record-breaking 715th career home run. (U.S. Postal Service via The New York Times)

by John Yoon

NEW YORK, NY.- Hank Aaron, the celebrated baseball player who faced down racism as he broke the Major League Baseball record for most career home runs, was honored Monday with a United States Postal Service Forever stamp and a statue at Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The commemorations marked the 50th anniversary of Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, which launched him past Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, the sport’s most cherished record.

The Braves, Aaron’s team for much of his career, also celebrated his achievement before their Monday home game against the New York Mets in Atlanta. The ceremony, including the first pitch thrown by Aaron’s great-grandson, King Aaron, was attended by his teammates, his widow, Billye Aaron, and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.

Aaron, who died at 86 in 2021, endured hate mail and death threats from people who were outraged that a Black man could outshine a white baseball star. He went on to hit 755 home runs.

The image featured on the stamp shows a younger Aaron in his batting stance, wearing his Braves uniform (and no helmet). The USPS said in a statement that the timing of the stamp’s issue and a related dedication ceremony would be announced later.

“This stamp celebrates the life and career of Aaron,” the USPS said, “a giant both on and off the field, who rose from humble beginnings to rewrite the record books while prevailing in the face of racism.”

His bronze statue, which will be unveiled May 23 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, was announced Monday at the opening event for the Atlanta History Center’s new exhibit for Aaron, “More Than Brave,” which will open to the public from Tuesday through September 2025.

Born Henry Louis Aaron in Mobile, Alabama, Aaron was much more than a home-run hitter. He won three Gold Glove awards for his fielding prowess. He led the National League twice in batting average and ranks third all-time in hits (3,771). He still holds career records for runs batted in, extra-base hits, total bases and All-Star selections (25).

Barry Bonds surpassed Aaron’s home run record in 2007, though many considered that achievement to be tainted by accusations that Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs, which he repeatedly denied. While news reports and books made strong cases that he had used banned substances, the Justice Department dropped its case against him in 2015.

At the Atlanta History Center on Monday, a $100,000 scholarship at Tuskegee University was announced by MLB, the Braves and the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, established by the team after Aaron’s death. The grant added to the other scholarships that have been awarded in Aaron’s name to underprivileged students across the United States.

“The legacy of Hank Aaron has always been about so much more than just his incredible baseball achievements,” Jane Forbes Clark, the chair of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, said in a statement that celebrated his philanthropic work.

“He was undoubtedly a force of change in our society,” said Rob Manfred, MLB’s commissioner, at the Atlanta History Center. “Hank’s legacy goes way beyond what he was as a player.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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