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Apr. 8: Aaron hits Number 715

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Here’s what happened.

On April 8, 1974, Henry Louis “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron hit his 715th career home run, surpassing the career record of George Herman “Babe” Ruth. That historic sports feat was accomplished before an ecstatic hometown crowd of Atlanta Braves fans at Fulton County Stadium.

Here’s why it matters.

In 1961, Roger Maris broke Ruth’s second biggest hitting record: most home runs in a season. Like Maris, Aaron endured abuse and death threats from many people who did want to see Ruth’s record broken-- particularly by a black man. Ironically, Alphonso Erwin (Al) Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the man who surrendered the homer to Aaron, was also black. Both men wore Number 44 on their uniforms.

The Aaron and Maris records have each been surpassed. But widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in the major leagues over recent years has placed many records under suspicion. Aaron has graciously avoided making public comments on the matter.

Aaron ended his career with 755 homers. His life after baseball serves as a model for all professional athletes. He has successfully served as an executive with the Braves as well as an entrepreneur. In 2002, Aaron was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Here’s an interesting fact!

A Dodgers outfielder made a vain attempt to catch Hank Aaron’s historic homer. But Bill Buckner is remembered more infamously for the ground ball he failed to catch while playing for the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series.

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