One of the best and most revered athletes ever, Hank Aaron turns 79 today (February 5, 1934). Born in Mobile, Alabama, Hammerin’ Hank began his pro career in 1951, earning $10 a day for the Mobile Black Bears, in the final year of the Negro Leagues. Called up to the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, the rest is history.

During his 22-year career, Aaron broke almost every offensive record in baseball, even shattering Babe Ruth’s iconic home run total. As he came closer to Babe’s record, he received a vicious barrage of racial taunts and death threats from angry fans, many of whom did not think a black man should hold the home run record. He bore all the hatred in the same quiet, dignified way he performed on the field. Over the years, he’s not only become a beacon for racial equality but also a model for how the game should be played. Although his record has been surpassed by Barry Bonds, many people still regard Hammerin’ Hank as the true home run king.