By Dan Murphy
I loved playing baseball in Northern Westchester as a kid and I was a Yankee fan, but I enjoyed seeing and learning all of the great players and their stats that made up a baseball encyclopedia.
The biggest and most important baseball stat and count was 714 which is the number of home runs hit by Babe Ruth. That was until April 8, 1974 at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta when Hank met Aaron # 715.
This video was replayed over the past week after Aaron died on January 22nd at the age of 86. I saw this clip live with my family when I was 7 years old. The game was on national TV and while I loved the Yanks and the baby, I admired Hank Aaron for hitting 715 home runs.
He's the king of the home run, fair and fair, I thought. I didn't know how much racism and hate Aaron had to go through to get that home run.
Henry Louis Aaron was born in Alabama in 1934 and grew up in the South. He joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and played there until the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. Aaron wasn't thrilled to return to the south during the civil rights movement. "I lived in the south and I don't want to live there again. We can go anywhere in Milwaukee. I don't know what would happen in Atlanta."
Hank Aaron admired Jackie Robinson and often said, “I picked up where Jackie Robinson left off. I believed, and still do, that there was a reason I was selected to break the record, ”he wrote in“ I Had a Hammer ”.
I was listening to WFAN sports radio the day after Hank Aaron's death, and former Yankee Rick Cerone recalled a 1980 Yorktown Heights event at Huckleberry's Restaurant to promote a magazine that Cerone helped create and that " Baseball Magazine "was called.
Lunch was held for the baseball team of the decade. Aaron was named the 1970s real outfield player and attended lunch. Aaron's 715th home run was later named the largest baseball event of the 1970s by Baseball Magazine, and a press conference was held in New York City to promote it. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn was in attendance, handing out the awards to several baseball starts, including Aaron.
On the day of the press conference, Aaron sent a telegram explaining why he was unable to attend. “I understand that Mr Kuhn has asked to present me the award for the outstanding moment of the 1970s, in honor and recognition of the new record in the home run that was set on April 8, 1974. I remember the Commissioner the Did not recognize the need to participate, ”wrote Aaron in his telegram.
Kuhn had a prior engagement that day to speak outside the Cleveland Sports Club. Kuhn was in attendance when Aaron linked Babe Ruth to Homer # 714, but in a bad decision didn't cancel to come to Atlanta to see # 715. And Hank never forgot it and never let Kuhn forget it.
"I think it would have been a straight slap in the face to be there in 1980 to accept an award from someone who didn't feel they had to be there in 1974," Aaron told the New York Times. "It was a slap in the face and a slap in the face of the Atlanta fans in 1974 when the commissioner didn't play the game in which I broke the record." I hope the Commissioner did not think that I would forget. "
Aaron also said on the 1980 Telegram that he was disappointed with the shortage of former black baseball players hired into the front offices of baseball teams and Major League Baseball.
The headline in the Chicago Tribune after Hank's 1974 hit # 715 read "Hank Hammers it home!" Reporter John Husar also noted, “Inspector Bowie Kuhn tainted the office by refusing to take part in the game and sending Monte Irvin to represent him. The mere mention of Kuhn's name during the memorial ceremonies sparked over a minute of drilling. "
In the days and months before reaching # 715, Aaron received numerous death threats that if he broke the baby's record he would be killed. The Post noted at the time that Aaron had received more mail than anyone who was not a political figure. Most of them with letters warned him, "I have a contract with you and" My gun watches your black movements. "
"The Ruth chase should have been the greatest time of my life and it was the worst," wrote Aaron in his 1991 autobiography: "I had a hammer." Aaron's friend and baseball star Billy Williams said, "He broke the record for an icon, a man who was white and had been idolized for so many years. How did Aaron go on with threats against himself and his family?" and maybe it made him more focused and determined, "said teammate Dusty Baker.
Dodger's broadcaster Vin Scully, speaking for most of America, said the night he met 715, “What a wonderful moment for baseball. What a wonderful moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a wonderful moment for the country and the world. A black guy gets a standing ovation in the deep south for breaking an all-time baseball idol record. "
The awards for Hank Aaron came from all over the country in memory of his death. "We lost one of America's greatest athletes, Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's 1974 home run record. Some white citizens hated him because they didn't want black Aaron to beat white babe's record." Bless Hank, he's inspired so many people, but let's remember that kind of racial hatred still exists, "said Colin Powell.
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I am deeply saddened to have passed baseball legend #HankAaron. Like my father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he stood strong against hatred and racism and was able to persevere and become one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. My father was a huge fan of baseball and Mr. Aaron. He and my father shared mutual respect and admiration. After my father was murdered, Mr. Aaron was very supportive of my mother, Ms. Coretta Scott King, and the King Center. "
Magic Johnson tweeted, "Put Aaron on Mount Rushmore by Baseball GOATS!" I would agree, but this is difficult for baseball players to find Mount Rushmore, but the Babe and Hank Aaron are a good place to start.
Quarterback Drew Brees said, “Hank was a true legend who can never really leave us. Legends teach us how to live like this and be great. "
When he joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, Aaron was active in the civil rights movement. He helped John F. Kennedy win the Wisconsin Elementary School in 1960, and Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992.
In 2001, Clinton presented him with the Presidential Citizens Medal for "Exemplary Service to the Nation." In 2002 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Aaron remains the first in Major League history in runs beaten in (2,297) and total bases (6,856) while he ranks third in hits (3,771). But he is no longer the "official" king.
That's because Barry Bonds outperformed Aaron in 2007, but he did so with the help of steroids. We agree with Reggie Jackson, who still referred to Hank Aaron as "the man-led king".