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MLB Legend Hank Aaron dies at 86

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Legendary Atlanta Brave and Major League Baseball record holder Hank Aaron died Friday at the age of 86, according to Aaron’s daughter.

What We Know:

  • Born in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron was one of eight children born to Herbert and Estella Aaron. His family was so poor they could not afford baseball equipment, so he began honing his baseball skill by hitting bottle caps with sticks.
  • Aaron had his first major league tryout as a 15-year-old with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.  He did not make that team and returned to school to get his diploma. In November 1951, at the age of 17, Aaron began his minor league career with the Indianapolis Clown’s organization of the negro leagues.  Seven months later, in June 1952, Aaron chose to sign with the Boston Braves over the New York Giants, because the Braves offered $50 more a month.  The team moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and one year later, Aaron made the big-league roster.  That first season, Aaron wore No. 5. He switched to No. 44 in 1955. That same year, at age 21, Aaron made the first of his record 21 All-Star selections and his record 25 All-Star appearances.  Aaron won the National League batting title in 1956 and won his only MVP award the following year after hitting 322 and finishing in the top three in all three triple crown batting categories.  He capped his MVP ’57 season by clinching the pennant with a home run in inning 393 in a seven-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  The Braves moved to Atlanta in time for the 1966 season, and within two years, Aaron was recording milestones in Georgia.
  • Aaron became the first player in Major League history to record 500 homers and 3,000 hits. He went on to hit 40 or more home runs seven different times, finishing third in the MVP voting six times.  At the age of 37, he hit his career high in home runs, 47 of them and set a new career best in slugging percentage.  At age 39, Aaron recorded his eighth 40-homer season finishing that year with 713 for his career, just one home run shy of Babe Ruth’s major league record.  That offseason, Aaron received numerous death threats and loads of racist letters.

A Hero to Some, A Nigger to Others

“Dear Hank Aaron, Retire or DIE!!! The Atlanta Braves will be moving around the country and I’ll move with them …”

 

  • Aaron once recalled a hand-scrawled letter of threats that went on to lists dates and cities for Braves games that issued threats on his life.  He often recalled that he slept at the ball park on several occasions, because for him that was a safe place.  The U.S. Postal Service honored Aaron for receiving nearly 1 million pieces of mail, more than any non-politician.
  • On April 8, 1974, against the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 53,775 spectators and a national TV audience, Aaron broke the Babe’s record with home run No. 715.  The threat of violence against Aaron required his family to join the millions of people watching him hit the record setting home run from home.  Aaron’s son, Lary, who was 16 at the time, said he was terrified when his father made the historic hit.  He hit his 733rd and final home run as a Brave on Oct. 2 of that year.
  • The Braves traded Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 1975 season and Aaron broke Ruth’s RBI record and hit his final 22 home runs in a Brewer’s uniform, hitting a 755th final home run on July 20, 1976. After a 23-year career, Aaron retired in 1976 as Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in home runs. He remains the all-time leader in career RBIs, extra base hits and total bases.  Aaron also ranks in the top five in career hits, runs at bat and games played.  The Brewer’s retired Aaron’s No. 44 in 1976. The Braves retired his uniform in 1977.
  • Aaron was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Civil Rights Icon

  • After reaching the Major Leagues, Aaron quietly allied himself with the American civil rights movement. He campaigned for then-Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in Milwaukee in 1960 and was credited with helping the Democratic candidate win the Wisconsin presidential primary.
  • In 1966, at the height of the civil rights movement, after the Braves moved to Atlanta, Aaron grew concerned.

“I have lived in the South, and I don’t want to live there again,” he said. “We can go anywhere in Milwaukee. I don’t know what would happen in Atlanta.”

  • Aaron soon became as recognizable in Atlanta as civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In Culture

  • Muhammad Ali once said that he idolized Aaron “more than myself.” He became known to the world as “Hammerin’ Hank.

No official funeral or memorial arrangements have been set at this time.

 

This is a breaking news story.  This story will be updated.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black News Alerts and the host of Unmuted Nation on BossFM. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

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Headlines

Illinois State Program Offers Health Coverage to Seniors Regardless of Legal Status

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Illinois has implemented a program that offers health coverage to low-income immigrant seniors regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

What We Know:

  • This is important because, under federal law, Americans who lack legal status are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or Obamacare enrollment. The bill was signed into law last year, and 2,200 people have enrolled since its institution. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services expects the policy to cover almost 4,600 people statewide.
  • According to Hayley Burgess of the National Immigration Law Center, Illinois is the first state to fully fund a health coverage program that focuses on noncitizen immigrant seniors. The health coverage bill is sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Delia Ramirez, who is also a member of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus. The program was successfully passed in 2020, notably due to the impact of COVID-19. Ramirez remarked, “Covid was killing people, and it was a human rights violation.”
  • As mentioned above, the program is state-funded, which means that patients don’t experience any copays or enrollment fees. Before the program was implemented, a clinic in Brighton Park, Chicago, revealed that the uninsured rate for older patients older than 65 was 31%. Two-thirds of Brighton Park’s senior population are immigrants, according to census data. With the increased expansion of the program, it’s possible to lower the rate of 31% down to 14.5%.
  • Currently, it costs 8,500 a year to ensure a senior citizen under the program. According to a recent study by FAIR Health, the average cost for an uninsured hospitalized COVID-19 patient reaches as high as $74,000 for a week visit. However, despite the number of costs the program saves patients, a few remain hesitant to apply.
  • This has caused concern to rise regarding fear of being deported, which can be attributed to Trump’s immigration policies. A study by the Urban Institute found 1 in 7 adults in immigrant families have reported not having enrolled in healthcare programs, even when they’re eligible for benefits. They fear enrollment could impact their legal status.

Only time will tell how successful the innovative program may turn out for many and if other regions in the U.S will follow by example.

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Headlines

Judge Rules Only One George Floyd Family Member Allowed in Chauvin Trial at a Time

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Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer, charged with George Floyd’s death, is set to stand trial on March 8th.

What We Know:

  • The ruling issued by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Tuesday mandates that only one of Floyd’s family members be allowed in the courtroom at a time. Different family members can rotate in the position throughout the trial with the proper credentials. The order applies to the family of Chauvin as well. Jury selection for the trial will begin on Monday, with opening arguments beginning no earlier than March 29th. 
  • Access to the proceedings by family members will be restricted by necessity, as space inside the courtroom during the highly anticipated trial will be limited due to covid protocols. In addition, the order forbids “any mask or article of clothing that contains any image, logo, letters, or numbers that are visible.”
  • Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three of the other officers present during the incident–Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s death and will stand trial together in August.
  • The family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci related the Floyd family’s sentiments in a joint statement Tuesday, “while they understand the judge’s reasons to limit attendance in the courtroom, the family is understandably disappointed by this ruling. The family is looking forward to the start of the trial as a critical milestone on the path to justice and a step toward closure in this dark chapter of their lives.”

The death of the late Minneapolis resident, who was killed last May during a confrontation with police over allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, has continued to be the staple of nationwide protests over police brutality over the past year.

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Crime

Dallas Police Officer Arrested and Charged in Connection with Two 2017 Murders

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A Dallas police officer has been taken into custody for allegedly ordering the deaths of two people.

What We Know:

  • According to NBC News, Officer Bryan Riser, 36, was arrested on Thursday morning and charged with two counts of capital murder. Riser is believed to be connected to the murders of Lisa Saenz, 31, and Albert Douglas, 61. Saenz was found shot to death in the Trinity River in March of 2017. Douglas was reported missing in February of 2017, but his body was never found.
  • Despite being murdered just two weeks apart, the incidents are believed to be unrelated. Dallas Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia held a press conference to address the public.

“We received information from a witness that implicated Riser in both murders,” Garcia stated. “The motive for these murders is unknown at this time, and this remains an ongoing investigation.”

  • According to the affidavit for the arrest warrant, Riser offered $3,500 for a hit on Albert Douglas and another $6,000 to one of the three people who was arrested in connection to Saenz’s murder in 2017. Riser instructed the witness and others to kidnap and kill both individuals and dump their bodies in the Trinity River.
  • Riser joined the department in August of 2008 and has been patrolling South-Central Dallas while under investigation for the killings. This is not Riser’s first known offense either. In May of 2017, Riser was arrested after being accused of misdemeanor assault family violence, causing bodily injury towards an ex-girlfriend. An Internal Affairs investigation was conducted at the time, but no further details have been released.
  • As the Internal Affairs administrative investigation continues, Riser has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome. The department is moving as quickly as possible toward termination. Chief Garcia said they would be looking deeper into Riser’s arrest record in light of the charges against him.

Jail records show Riser’s bond has been set at $5 million, $2.5 million per charge.

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