Do you remember where you were on April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron hit No. 715? A few ESPN writers and analysts shared their memories of the moment 40 years ago when Aaron passed Babe Ruth to become the all-time home run king. You can share your story using the Twitter hashtag #Aaron715.
I was 12 years old living in Weston, Mass. I was in my basement watching it on a Zenith 19-inch color TV set all by myself. The thrill of watching reliever Tom House catch the home run ball in the bullpen and the goose bumps watching history take place were amazing. I especially enjoyed the fact that second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell and third baseman Ron Cey physically congratulated Aaron with handshakes or back pats. That home run was one of my favorite memories of my pre-teenage years.
I was at Little League practice. I'm not sure who told us -- someone must have heard it on the radio -- but we found out during practice, and I recall being very excited. After practice we could go home and watch it on TV because the game was tape-delayed on the West Coast.
I was 15 years old, and I watched it from the living room of our house on Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine. Everyone was a Red Sox fan where I grew up, but the moment transcended team allegiances or even baseball. I remember Tom House catching the home run in the bullpen, and fearing for Aaron's safety when those two kids dogged him rounding second base. You knew you were watching something historic -- a moment that would stand the test of time.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a senior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md. I was sitting in our rec room with my two brothers and my dad, all huge baseball fans. We were watching the only TV in the house. I can still remember Curt Gowdy, who brought sports into all our houses back then, yelling, "He did it!" It was a night I will never forget the rest of my life.
I was early to bed on April 8, 1974, and when I got up in the morning to go to the barn for chores, I found a handwritten note from my Mom on the kitchen table, with the checkered tablecloth, that Aaron had broken the record. I remember she noted that the crowd had cheered.
My own view of Hank Aaron's 715th home run came courtesy of a black-and-white TV in my Fort Lauderdale, Fla., apartment, but as I watched him circumnavigate the bases through the snow of my reception, I flashed back to my own living-color encounter with The Hammer the month before. I had just started as a reporter for The Fort Lauderdale News, and I went up to the Braves' spring training camp in West Palm Beach to ask him a question that had plagued me for years, dating back to the 1969 publication of The Baseball Encyclopedia. The very first name in that epic reference book was Henry Louis Aaron, and I was struck by the cosmic coincidence of the first player in the alphabet being the best player in history. Oh, you could argue for other players, but the merger of accident with accomplishment confirmed his place in the pantheon, at least in my mind.
Armed only with a pen and notebook and patience, I shadowed Hank that day. He was, of course, in high demand, and I was a lowly scribe from an out-of-town newspaper, so I had to wait around for hours. Finally, at the end of the workout, I followed him back to his stall in the Braves' locker room and introduced myself. I asked him, with all the profundity that a 23-year-old could muster, "Have you ever given any thought to the significance of being first in major league history in both the alphabet and home runs?" Hank looked at me, shook his head and said what amounted to, "Oh shoot." Then he walked away. In the years since, he has been passed in home runs by Barry Bonds and in the alphabet by David Aardsma. But he's still at the top in my book.