For those of you not familiar with the history of the greatest sport in the world, Monday was the anniversary of Henry Aaron’s historic 715th career home run.
Before Barry Bonds cranked out all of his steroid laced homers — you must excuse my interjection of personal feelings, but this is a column — there was Henry Aaron.
In his career, Aaron hit at least 40 homers eight times and had over 3,000 hits. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1982, his first year of eligibility.
Anyway, on April 8, 1974, Aaron finally surpassed Babe Ruth’s career total of 714, which Aaron had tied on opening day in Cincinnati. But it was at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium where Hammerin’ Hank broke the record. He had received hate mail by the bag full and even was threatened to be shot if he broke the Babe’s record. In spite of all those things, he calmly and gentlemanly went about his business and broke the record.
The night of April 8 was full of excitement as Aaron went to the plate in the fourth inning against the Dodger’s Al Downing.
It was his second trip to the plate that historic night. He had drawn a walk his first time up and Downing had drawn a chorus of boos when he continued to miss the strike zone.
Finally, Aaron came up to the plate amid the excitement and the anticipation.
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully authored perhaps the best call of the moment with his unique, respected and beloved style. His words were the eloquent summation of a moment that lives still in my mind and the mind of every baseball fan old enough to either be there or watch it on television as I did.
After Downing’s first pitch was low and out of the strike zone, Aaron stepped out, then got a fastball over the inner half of the plate. The next few minutes were the baseball equivalent of euphoria as Aaron’s picturesque swing drilled a high, fast moving blast that found itself in the Dodge bullpen.
“Downing has to ignore the sound effects, remain professional and pitch his game,” Scully said as the crowd excitement and roar reached a crescendo. “One ball, no strikes, Aaron waiting, the outfield deep and straight away.”
Then as Henry swung his mighty hammer, Scully spoke just enough to set the scene.
“The pitch is a fast ball,” Scully said just as his voice began to pitch higher in anticipation. “A high drive deep to left center field. Buckner goes back to the fence. It is gone.”
As Aaron rounded the bases, Scully let the crowd do the talking. Aaron was greeted at home plate by his teammates and a beleaguered looking Dodger catcher Joe Ferguson.
Scully summed it all best when he called it a marvelous moment.
“What a marvelous moment for baseball,” Scully said. “What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep south for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us and particularly for Henry Aaron.”
Maybe its time for all of us to just sit back, relax and let baseball do its job.
Rick Curl is a reporter with The Daily Record. Reach him at 910-230-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.