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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Hank Aaron sets home run record with No. 715
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
April 8, 1974
Hank Aaron was 15 months old when Babe Ruth hit the last of his record 714 homers. Thirty-eight years later, in the summer of '73, Aaron's chase to beat the Babe heated up. So did the mail.
He received more than an estimated 3,000 letters a day, more than any American outside of politics. Unfortunately, much of it was hate mail, including death threats sent by racists. The year ended with Aaron at 713 homers.
Hammerin' Hank wasn't going to let the death threats or hate mail distract him from his quest. In his first at-bat of this season, he tied Babe's record in Cincinnati. The FBI investigated threats that if he hit No. 715, he wouldn't cross home plate alive. In Atlanta today, 53,775 fans -- the largest crowd in Braves history -- comes out to witness history. Aaron doesn't disappoint them.
In the fourth inning, on his first swing of the evening, he rips a fastball from Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Al Downing into the Braves bullpen, where it is caught by reliever Tom House. To everyone's relief, there are no shots fired from the crowd, nobody out to kill Aaron for besting Ruth: just cheers and adulation.
As Aaron rounds second base, two hippie college students appear and run alongside him. At home plate, he is mobbed by his teammates and his father, who has run onto the field. Baseball has a new home-run king.
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