It was 49 years ago this week that Atlanta Braves fans celebrated as Hammerin’ Hank Aaron broke the home run record right here in Atlanta.
It is a moment etched in sports and national history forever.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.
Hammerin’ Hank broke the record against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in front of more than 50,000 fans inside the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and for countless others across the U.S. watching from home.
“He was the articulation of what we wanted to be as a city. He was a Black star in the South,” Atlanta History Center president Sheffield Hale said.
Aaron broke the record eight years after the Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee, bringing the superstar with them.
“He was able to thrive in the South. Notwithstanding all the other things and things that he had to go through at the same time because it wasn’t perfect. But he was a huge part of our identity, and he became a great part of our commitment,” Hale said.
As Braves fans erupted, Aaron made his way through the crowd and to the stands to embrace his wife, Billye.
Earlier this year, Channel 2′s Karyn Greer spoke with Aaron’s widow about the historic moment.
“You were sitting there in the stands. I saw the video… of him coming over to kiss you,” Greer said to Billye Aaron.
“Oh yes,” she said. “I was just absolutely thrilled.”
The Aarons appreciated all they had and were committed to giving back, creating the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation.
“It gave us the idea, and particularly Henry, the idea that he could help as he had been helped. And we wanted to identify kids who needed a chance, who needed an opportunity to develop their talents,” Billye Aaron said.
Hank Aaron hit five home runs in April and eight more in May. He ended his career with 755.