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Little Known Black History Fact: Hank Aaron

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This month marks the 40th anniversary of baseball legend Hank Aaron’s home run record. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record by hitting his 715th home run for the Atlanta Braves.

In front of 50,000 fans, in the Atlanta Braves season opener, Aaron hit the record home run at Fulton County Stadium. Hank Aaron was 39-years old when he broke Ruth’s record. There hadn’t been a player that age hit the most home runs since 1937.

Aaron was also under pressure from racist letters and death threats though his bodyguard and team management worked to shelter him from the negative reactions so he could simply play the game.

Aside from the mental challenges, the Braves wanted to sit Aaron out for the first three games of the season to boost home ticket sales. But when Bowie Kuhn, then the baseball commissioner, stepped in, Aaron played and hit his famous home run. The Braves expected a celebration.

There was an American flag in the shape of the United States painted on the grass in center field. Sammy Davis Jr., Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard Jackson, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and Pearl Bailey were all at the game.

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