Tuesday, April 8, 2014

40 Years Ago Tonight- Henry Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth's Career Home Run Record at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium

Tuesday night marks the 40th anniversary of Henry Aaron hitting career HR #715, breaking Babe Ruth's record. Aaron, who spent most of his career with the Braves, faced anonymous death threats in the run up to surpassing Babe Ruth's mark in a deep south not too far removed from Jim Crow- although this wasn't widely known until well after Aaron's 1976 retirement. In fact, journalists and MLB security briefly feared the worst when two white fans rushed out of the stands towards Aaron as he rounded the bases, but as it turned out they were fans who wanted to be the first to congratulate him.

At the time, Aaron was the last player from the Negro Leagues still playing in the big leagues, playing for the Indianapolis Clowns as an 18 year old. Aaron reportedly entertained offers from the Boston Braves and New York Giants- according to Aaron himself, the only thing that separated him from becoming teammates with Willie Mays was that the Braves offered an extra $50 a month. However, by the time Aaron made his MLB debut in 1954, the Braves had moved from Boston to Milwaukee.

By 1957, the Milwaukee Braves bested the New York Yankees in 7 games in the World Series- Aaron's only World Series title in his 22 year MLB career. In 1966 the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, putting the Alabama-born Aaron back in the Deep South for the first time since he came up through the Braves farm system.

Aaron, who turned 80 a few weeks ago and still resides in the Atlanta area, will be honored during a pregame ceremony at Turner Field before the Braves/Mets game on Tuesday night.

Interestingly, out of the three broadcasters who were calling the game that April night in Georgia, two of them were calling games until 2012 season. Milo Hamilton was the Braves broadcaster that night and went on to become the Astros broadcaster until his 2012 retirement. The late Curt Gowdy called the game for NBC's national telecast that night- he passed away in 2006 and has a state park in his native Wyoming named after him. Since the Braves were playing the visiting Dodgers that night, that meant that Vin Scully was doing the play-by-play for Los Angeles that night. Scully began his 61st year as the Dodgers broadcaster this month.

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