Four games into the 1974 Major League Baseball season – and 27 years after Jackie Robinson broke the league’s color barrier- Henry “Hank” Aaron did what many weren‘t ready to experience from an African-American ballplayer.
The Atlanta Braves outfielder launched his 715th career home run, knocking George Herman “Babe” Ruth, baseball’s longtime “Great White Hope”, off his pedestal as the most accomplished slugger of all time. Yet, Aaron’s historic blast didn’t quite deliver a fairy tale ending.
Breaking Ruth’s 39-year record resulted in hate mail, death threats and unfavorable media attention. “There were so many other things that were involved in life,” he said of the feat’s aftermath.
Though the Hall of Famer still holds league records for RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856), extra- base hits (1,477) and All-Star Game appearances (25), his record of 755 home runs is no more.
“My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams,” Aaron said in 2007, when Barry Bonds broke the record.