Major League Baseball (MLB) great Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his successful pursuit of Babe Ruth’s career home run record, has died aged 86.
Aaron broke Ruth’s famed record with his 715th home run in 1974 while playing for the Atlanta Braves
He was the target of extensive hate mail during his quest to break Ruth’s record
MLB describes Aaron as being “near the top of everyone’s list of all-time great players”
The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s long-time MLB team, said he died peacefully in his sleep. No cause of death was given.
Aaron made his last public appearance earlier this month when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to help spread the word to Black Americans that the vaccine was safe.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs (runs batted in), extra-base hits and total bases.
But Aaron will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king.
On April 8, 1974, before a sell-out crowd at Atlanta Stadium and a national television audience, Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record with number 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully famously called Aaron’s milestone home run, in which he highlighted the significance of the achievement.
“What a marvellous moment for baseball. What a marvellous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia,” Scully said in commentary after Aaron triumphantly made his way to the home plate.
“What a marvellous moment for the country and the world.
“A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”
Scully paid his respect to Aaron on Saturday, saying it was a privilege to cover his milestone home run and his career.
“He meant so much more to baseball and the country than just being one of the game’s top home run hitters,” Scully tweeted.
Aaron held the home run record of 755 for more than 33 years, a period during which he slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan.
But Aaron’s journey to that memorable homer was hardly triumphant, as he was the target of extensive hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s cherished record of 714.
Aaron was shadowed constantly by bodyguards and forced to distance himself from teammates. He kept all those hateful letters, a bitter reminder of the abuse he endured and never forgot.
“This is just the way things are for Black people in America,” Aaron once said.
“It’s something you battle all of your life.”
Braves president and CEO, Derek Schiller, said Aaron “basically is the Braves”.
“Our brand is and our team is who we are because of Hank Aaron,” Schiller said.
“I know there are a lot of guys [who] have worn the uniform, but none like Hank.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Aaron would be remembered as a legend of the game.
“Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone’s list of all-time great players,” he said in a statement.
“Hank symbolised the very best of our game, and his all-round excellence provided Americans and fans across the world with an example to which to aspire.
“His career demonstrated that a person who goes to work with humility every day can hammer his way into history and find a way to shine like no other.”
A giant of baseball
Aaron spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves — first in Milwaukee, then in Atlanta after the franchise moved to the South in 1966. He finished his career in Milwaukee after being traded to the Brewers following the 1974 season when he refused to take a front-office job that would have required a big pay cut.
While knocking the ball over the fence became his signature accomplishment, Aaron was hardly a one-dimensional star. In fact, he never hit more than 47 homers in a season.
But it can be argued no one else was so good, for so long, at so many facets of baseball.
He posted 14 seasons with a .300 average, the last of them at age 39, and claimed two National League batting titles. He finished with a career average of .305.
Aaron also was a gifted outfielder with a powerful arm, something often overlooked because of a smooth, effortless stride that his critics mistook for nonchalance. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner.
In addition, Aaron posted nine straight seasons with double-figure stolen bases, including a career best of 31 in 1963 when he joined Ken Williams and Willie Mays as only the third member of the 30-30 club — players who have totalled at least 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
Six feet tall (182 centimetres) and listed at 180 pounds (81.6 kilograms) during the prime of his career, Aaron was hardly an imposing player physically. But he was blessed with powerful wrists that made him one of baseball’s most feared hitters.
Aaron hit 733 homers with the Braves, the last in his final plate appearance with the team on October 2, 1974. Exactly one month later, he was traded to the Brewers.
Aaron became a designated hitter with the Brewers but managed just 22 homers over his last two seasons. He retired after hitting .229 in 1976.
Even so, his career numbers largely stood the test of time. The home run mark lasted until Barry Bonds hit his 756th on August 7, 2007.
Bonds retired with 762 homers, but many consider Aaron the true home-run king because of steroid allegations that continue to hound his successor.
Aaron still has more RBIs (2,297), extra-base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856) than anyone in baseball history. He ranks second in at-bats (12,354), third in games played (3,298) and hits (3,771), and fourth in runs scored (tied with Ruth at 2,174).
He was the National League’s MVP in 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games to give Aaron the only World Series title of his career. It also was his lone MVP award, though he finished in the top 10 of the balloting 13 times.
Aaron was selected for the All-Star Game in 21 consecutive years — every season but his first and his last.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, which was his first year of eligibility. He was just nine votes short of being a unanimous choice.
In 1999, MLB began honouring its top hitter with the Hank Aaron Award, akin to the Cy Young for pitchers.
Aaron was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, by then-president George W Bush in 2002.
Passers-by can peer into their kitchen and the patio garden the couple have tended for months, yielding everything from pumpkin to beans and pomegranates, and which also boasts a bee hive.
The couple will host $395-per-head dinners from January 30 and give $10 tours of the house. Guest experts will present free live-streamed talks on topics such as architecture and mushroom growing.
The house, called Greenhouse By Joost, is the idea of environmental advocate Joost Bakker, who has contributed $150,000 to the project.
His mother, Lia Bakker, invested $500,000 from the proceeds of the sale of her Monbulk farm. When the Federation Square project finishes in April, the Greenhouse will be moved to her new property for her to live in.
Mr Stone and Ms Barrett, who have starred on TV show MasterChef and who until last year were executive chefs at Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley, said they’ve loved learning everything from how to make milk from tiger nuts, to how to raise trout, yabbies and barramundi in an aquaponics system that uses fish poo to fertilise plants.
But the couple’s main aim is to inspire others to grow and make their own food.
“I think after COVID, people are ready to make changes in their lives,” Ms Barrett said.
“They’re focusing on their homes. They want to be connected with nature. And if you do live in the inner city, here’s the perfect way to do that.”
Mr Stone advised newbies to start with parsley, basil and tomatoes in pots. “It’s not going to change overnight, it’s about small steps.”
The Greenhouse also showcases sustainable building. The kitchen wall tiles are made from old skateboards, while the wall panels are derived from recyclable and biodegradable wheat straw.
The stairs, cupboards and tables are made of wood from fallen sugar gum and cypress trees.
Federation Square acting chief executive Suzana Bishop said the organisation supported the Greenhouse as “a way to showcase sustainability and show what the future of living sustainably can look like”.
A devastated neighbour of the mother and her three children who were found dead in their home in grim scenes has revealed details of a conversation he had with her less than 24 hours before her death.
It comes as forensic advisers and specialists spent “all night” methodically examining the crime scene to establish a clearer picture and to “understand and appreciate” how the “tragic event” in metropolitan Melbourne occurred.
The Queensland Government instated a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane on Wednesday, following the discovery of COVID-positive hotel cleaner carrying the more-transmissible UK strain of the virus, with the woman visiting different parts of the city until testing positive on Wednesday.
Jetstar flights from Brisbane to Melbourne were cancelled on Saturday, leaving many Victorians struggling to get home.
Officer couple Steph Dugina and James Tomich said it was the frantic calls from family members in Victoria that made them come home from their holiday a day early.
Instead of visiting Dreamworld with four other Melbourne friends as planned, the pair spent a “stressful” night refreshing their phones and rebooking cancelled Jetstar flights three times over.
“We were just watching the cancellation messages come through. We didn’t know whether to risk paying for more flights or not,” Ms Dugina said.
“Then we booked with Virgin and just stayed up all night, waiting for it to be gone too.
“My mum said she wouldn’t sleep until we were actually on the plane – she was so relieved when I gave her a quick call to say we’d boarded.
“There’s a testing place just next to us, so we’ll just get tested and then go home.”
Those flying from Queensland had their ID checked before and after they got off the flight, and were greeted by rows of authorised officers in full personal protective equipment.
But travellers who flew into Melbourne Airport on Saturday morning said they were not explicitly told while on the flight or afterwards by authorised officers whether they needed to be tested for COVID-19 or isolate.
Peter Bentley had travelled to Queensland for a family member’s funeral but only spent a single day in Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast before booking a return flight.
Staying less than 40 kilometres the Moreton Bay Council, which has now been declared a ‘Red Zone’, he was worried if he didn’t leave the state he would be stuck there indefinitely.
“I thought if they were going to proceed to shut down the Sunshine Coast, I’d be locked up there,” Mr Bentley said.
“I looked up flights coming back from the Sunshine Coast (on Saturday), and tickets were up to $1160, so I then had to fly through Brisbane.
“It was good when I got here that they had a big team of people checking ID.”
GP Sally McAleese and her husband Stu raced back from the Gold Coast hinterlands with their children Orla, 11, and Patrick, 13, fearing Victoria would close the border to Queensland swiftly “like they did for New South Wales”.
“As soon as we saw the news breaking, we decided to get out. We just didn’t want to get stuck there, to be honest,” Mr McAleese said.
Dr McAleese said they “didn’t realise the border had shut” to those from Greater Brisbane overnight.
“It was very stressful, just not knowing what was going to happen. Even on the plane, we weren’t sure if we would have to hotel quarantine,” she said.
“There was a lot of people there to meet us off the plane, they were asking lots of questions … like what we did during our time, so they could trace us if there was any issue.
“There weren’t necessarily any checks, but you would assume everyone was being honest.”
Virgin Airlines said on Friday night it was operating Queensland services as usual but planned to make changes after the hotspot declaration.
The airline asked passengers travelling within the next three days to avoid calling and to visit its website instead as border restrictions were an “evolving situation”.
Health Minister Martin Foley urged Victorians not to go to the five local government areas in Greater Brisbane across the next three days “in the interests of everybody”.
“The Queensland government, backed by the Prime Minister, have made it clear they are doing a short, sharp, three-day lockdown to deal with these issues, so as to allow the contact tracing teams to get on top of it,” he said at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
“If you are in those five local government areas, stay where you are, do not move for three days, if you are in the rest of Australia, including the rest of Queensland, do not go to those areas.
“As we have established through this pandemic this virus does not respect state borders or holiday plans, it creates real havoc with the best-laid plans of Victorians and Australians.”
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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Gippsland MP Darren Chester has urged Victorian authorities to show compassion and get residents stuck in NSW home.
The Nationals minister on Monday told Sky News that the “chaotic” snap border closure between the two states on January 1 should not have occurred.
“If I had my way those border closures would not have happened, but I can’t make premiers do something they don’t want to do,” Mr Chester said.
“I’d be urging the Victorian health authorities to show some compassion here to work with these people who did nothing wrong.
“Don’t blame them for going on a holiday when they’ve been locked up for months … you find a way to get them home.”
Victorians who did not make it back across the border before it closed have been left in limbo after being told they were only able to return to the state with a “rare” exemption – granted for limited reasons – or if they were a permitted worker.
But Mr Chester said Victorians stranded in NSW should be able to get a COVID-19 test and quarantine in their own homes.
He also defended the federal government’s decision not to get involved in the latest border woes.
“It’s a bit unfair to be blaming the federal government for decisions made by the states which have a direct impact on people’s lives and their livelihoods,” Mr Chester said.
“The Prime Minister can’t stop the states from acting within their constitutional rights.”
Scott Morrison has rejected calls for an urgent national cabinet meeting to be held, saying the next one was scheduled for February.
But the tourism industry is the latest group to join Labor in demanding a national approach to border policies.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of lacking leadership.
“Scott Morrison has shown consistently that he’s a follower … he waits for others to make decisions and lead and then makes a decision over whether to support it or criticise it,” Mr Albanese said.
“It would be far preferable if we had some form of national co-ordination and national leadership of these issues.”