On Tuesday, the life of Braves legend and Hall of Famer Henry Aaron was celebrated during a memorial service at Truist Park in Atlanta. . He was 86.
"Hank epitomized what being an Atlanta Brave is. How he lived his life both on and off the field. Always with class and grace," Braves manager Brian Snitker said at the memorial service. "... I'll miss the best friend and the mentor that I had in my life. Hank, your legacy both on and off the field will live forever."
In addition to Snitker, fellow Hall of Famer and Braves icon Chipper Jones paid tribute to Aaron at Tuesday's service. Commissioner Rob Manfred, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, and current and former Braves players like Freddie Freeman and Marquis Grissom were also among those to speak, either in person or virtually.
"I respected the man so much, I wouldn't want to disappoint him or his memory," Jones said, explaining Aaron was instrumental in the Braves selecting him with the No. 1 pick in the 1990 draft. "... I cherished every single one of my interactions with him through the years. Whenever he walked into the room, part of me said, 'Boy, leave that man alone,' but the other half said, 'That's Hank Aaron. That's a true hero, and he deserves the respect of you going up and greeting him.'"
"(Aaron) stood, on and off the field, above all others. While he made his name here in Atlanta, and in Milwaukee, his loss has been felt across our great nation," Manfred said. "... There was so much more to Hank Aaron than his feats on the field. Hank Aaron was not just a great player, he was truly a great man. Hank Aaron carried himself with a sense of dignity. When you were around Hank, you could sense the aura of greatness, and people were naturally drawn to that aura."
During Tuesday's ceremony the Braves announced the foundation of the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, which will promote minority participation in baseball. The Braves are providing $1 million in seed money. MLB and the MLBPA will provide an additional $1 million.
In parts of 23 seasons from 1954-76, Aaron authored a career .305/.374/.555 batting line and is the all-time leader in total bases (6.856), runs batted in (2,297), and extra-base hits (1,477). He is second on the all-time home run list (755), and even if he never hit a single home run, he'd still have over 3,000 hits (3,016 to be exact). Aaron was selected to a record 25 All-Star Games.
In addition to being one of the greatest players to ever play the sport, Aaron was also an important figure in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality throughout his life.