Building off my previous post discussing the plight of African-Americans in baseball, but fast-forwarding almost 30 years to 1973.
At this time the best homerun hitter in the game (and arguably of all-time) was Hank Aaron. At the end of the 1973 season Aaron hit career homerun #713, one short of the all time career record of 714. The baseball legend Babe Ruth holds that mark, a record that at that point, stood for 38 years.
Before the 1974 season started, Hank Aaron, a black man, was receiving death threats in the mail from people who did not want him to break the career homerun record of Babe Ruth, a white man. The threats were taken seriously by the media as they slowed down their coverage of the story, with Aaron’s safety in mind. Aaron had to hire himself a bodyguard, check into hotel rooms under a different name, and find a new place to live.
The 1974 season did begin for Aaron, and he tied the career record of 714 on his very first at bat. It wasn’t until the fourth game of the season, in Atlanta, Georgia he broke the record and became the best homerun hitter of all time.
Why it’s memorable: As you can hear from the commentary in the video, it was a black man getting a standing ovation in the deep south, for breaking a long held record of a baseball legend. Aaron received death threats at the beginning of the year, then received a standing ovation weeks later.
There are no greater stories of guts and determination in Baseball, perhaps in sports, than what Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson before him have accomplished.