Saturday, August 30, 2014



"715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715!"

(April 8, 1974)

The 1974 baseball season was all about Hank Aaron besting Babe Ruth's career home run record of 714. Hank had been a model of home run consistency throughout his career. He never had a 60 home run season like Ruth. Never even had a 50 home run season like Mantle or Mays. But he did have eight 40 home run seasons and fifteen 30 home run seasons on his way to the record.

Of course, the drama of his reaching 714 really began heating up during the '73 season when Hank hit 40 to reach 713. We had to wait the entire off-season for him to begin the chase again. One problem was the first series of the season was at Cincinnati and everyone in Atlanta wanted him to break the record at home. The Braves wanted to limit Aaron's playing time the series with the Reds, but the commissioner forced the Braves to play him in two of the games in the "best interest of baseball." Aaron's first at-bat of the season was a three-run homer off of Jack Billingham on April 4th to tie the record. He get another hit in that game and had the next day off. In the final game in Cincy on April 7th, Aaron went hitless, so he was stuck on 714 and coming to Atlanta.

There was a big media gathering at Atlanta Stadium on April 8th in anticipation of the home run. The game was actually televised in Atlanta! The first home game televised locally. So everything was set up. But what if Hank didn't hit a home run that night? But it was all ready. It just had to be. It really seemed like the night.

In Aaron's first at-bat, he faced the Dodgers Al Downing and drew a walk (boo!). He came up again against Downing in the fourth and got a pitch to hit and didn't disappoint. He lined the ball over the left field fence despite the efforts of the Dodger's left fielder Bill Buckner to haul it in. The ball landed in the bullpen and Braves reliever Tom House presented the ball back to Aaron. As baseball memories go, it's certainly at the top of the heap for me.

The picture at the top of this page was taken by my brother Randy Cox, who was covering the game for The Valley Times News in Lanett, Alabama.

This season was the last for Hank Aaron in a Braves uniform. Truly the end of an era.

No comments:

Post a Comment