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Henry Aaron hits home run No. 715 - Image Credit: Baseball Hall of Fame

Based on current baseball “averages,” Henry Louis Aaron was small in stature but bigger than life. He set many Major League Baseball records, some already broken and others still standing. 

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934. This article is not about home runs, extra-base hits , or runs batted in. It is a remembrance of one home run and what he endured after the historical achievement. 

On April 8, 1974, at Fulton County Stadium, Aaron stepped into the batter’s box in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Al Downing. On a 1-0 pitch, he sent a long fly ball over the Braves bullpen, which landed in the glove of pitcher Tom House for the 715th home run of his career, passing the record held by the immortal Babe Ruth’s 714, which was achieved 39 years earlier. 

Henry’s (he did not like to be called Hank) rise from the streets of Mobile to Major League Baseball was more challenging and traditional than current baseball players. At 15, he was approached by the Brooklyn Dodgers to try out but he did not end up making the team. 

Aaron played for “sandlot” teams, a short team in the Negro League, and finally signing with the Indianapolis Clown of the Negro American League. In 1992, the New York Giants and Boston Braves contacted him by telegram with offers to join their organization. The Braves offered Aaron approximately $50 more a month — no, this is not a typo! 

Fifty dollars more a month than what the Giants offered. He accepted the Braves offer and was assigned to the Class C Eau Claire Bears of the Northern League. He played outstanding in his first year with the team and was named Rookie of the Year. 

After a year with the Jacksonville Braves in 1953, Aaron was brought up to the Milwaukee Braves and made his major league debut on April 13, 1954. He played with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta until his contract expired in 1974. Instead of retiring at the time, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975, retiring a year later. Henry was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year of eligibility in 1982. 

Two fans run on to the field during Henry Aaron’s 715th home run – Image Credit: MLB

Cinderella story? Far from it. During his storied career, Aaron was the victim of many racist incidents. After breaking the home run record, he not only received death threats but also hate mail. 

After retiring, Henry accepted positions with the Braves as an executive and special assistant to the general manager.  

While this article is short and leaves out many details of Henry Aaron’s life and tribulations, it is intended to honor the man, not just the records he set. 

Finally, a trivia question about Aaron. What did Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Babe Ruth have in common — besides being Hall of Famers and hard hitting baseball players? 

Leave your answer in the comment section below!

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