Chat with Tom Brokaw
Brokaw spent time with Aaron during the summer of 1973, as the slugger closed in on Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. Aaron finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs, one short of tying and two short of breaking Ruth's career record. Brokaw's reporting resulted in a documentary on Aaron - "The Long Winter of Henry Aaron." ESPN will re-air the documentary under a new title - "ESPN Remembers: The Long Winter of Henry Aaron" - which will have new material, including recent interviews with Brokaw and Aaron. The documentary will air Tuesday, July 24 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Send in your questions now, then join Brokaw on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (2:00 PM)
Tom Brokaw will be stopping by to chat. Send in your questions NOW!
I always read about all the stress Aaron was under in breaking the record. How did he appear to you when you were interviewing him?
Tom Brokaw (2:03 PM)
He was remarkably calm and utterly focused in just doing what he loved to do every day - hit the ball out of the park. It took him some time before he let us know about the mail and threats he was receiving. We first heard about it from his staff.
Joshua (DC via NYC)
Tom, did you ever sense that Aaron was intimidated by the record or was he just anxious to pass the Babe?
Tom Brokaw (2:04 PM)
He certainly wasn't intimidated by it. During the course of the interview, he was determined. He had been thinking about it for longer than anyone realized. He showed us parts of his life that he had not talked about before. He had wanted to be a pilot, but his father said he couldn't because there were no black pilots. That's what came out through this interview. He was a determined man and was proud of his abilities.
Hey Tom,What do you remember most about the time you interviewing Hank aaron chasing Ruth's record in 1973?
Tom Brokaw (2:05 PM)
What I remember most about him is that there was this other Hank Aaron. When you saw him in public, he was very reserved, very quiet, humble. When he sat down, I got some real insights into why he was so great for so long. In other areas than just hitting home runs, he was stealing bases - he was a complete baseball player.
What was the atmosphere like when Aaron was approaching the record? It had stood for 40 years.
Tom Brokaw (2:07 PM)
It was quite remarkable. I was surprised in that month of August - on the road, they didn't have sellout crowds. Some of them were pretty paltry. The attendance was low. There wasn't the same excitement that you have know with Barry Bonds. A lot has changed, you have ESPN now and a lot is covered more intensely now.
Matt (Westbrook, ME)
Mr. Brokaw, why is good news hardly ever big news? Why do scandal, controversy and evil sell so much better than charity, perseverence and good? We've been hearing about disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy and Mike Vick from every angle imaginable, yet the the likes of Jon Lester (remarkable return from cancer) and Ahman Green (made a down payment on a stranger's house) get one small headline each before being swept aside in favor of the next arrest. Thank you for chatting. I hope you're enjoying your "retirement."
Tom Brokaw (2:08 PM)
Well, the idea of news is to what's changed, what's new, what's different. For a long time in sports, scandal got a free pass. These scandals are shocking. You have a referee scandal. The Vick situation is horrific, if it's true.
Kevin Koliner, Yankton, SD
If you were baseball commissioner, would you be attending the game in which Bonds breaks the record?
Tom Brokaw (2:10 PM)
Yeah, I think I would. I know that Selig is conflicted by this on a couple of accounts. We don't have a resolution on Bonds' personal involvement with steroids. It makes it tough. But at the same time, Bud should be at the stadium. How he responds to it is up to him. I can't help to think back to when McGwire broke Maris' record. At the moment, we owe it to Bonds to say that he's not guilty.
Would the threats Aaron faced have been any less had he broken the record at the end of the 1973 season?
Tom Brokaw (2:11 PM)
No, because he was already getting it by then. He was getting a lot of letters already. We were seeing it that summer. Unfortunately it was a commentary as well why we weren't getting the big crowds - the huge racial component.
Dave C Edison, NJ
Tom, If you could do play by play for any sports team, which one would you choose?
Tom Brokaw (2:12 PM)
I used to do play by play when I was in college. I had been a schoolboy athlete, not a great one. I played three sports in high school. I liked basketball because of the action. Baseball is tough. I love Scully. There's a lot of time to fill.
How did Aaron view Ruth?
Tom Brokaw (2:13 PM)
He admired Babe Ruth, but he said records were made to be broken. Henry Aaron who was as great a HR hitter as Babe Ruth, he turned out to be better.
Does Hank take solace in the probability that Bonds' potentially tainted home run record will eventually be broken by Alex Rodriguez? Or is it just that he really wants the record for himself?
Tom Brokaw (2:14 PM)
Hank is a humble man and he knows that Barry will break his record. But Hank will always have the respect of baseball's fans. Because he broke the record.
A lot of people do Tom Brokaw impersonations. Which one is your favorite?
Tom Brokaw (2:15 PM)
I've heard a lot of them. The best one is our White House correspondent David Gregory. Dana Carvey did a great one.
Luke (Omaha, NE)
Tom, I have had the privilege of watching you on television since I was very young. Since I am from the Midwest, I can perfectly relate to your sensible, down-to-earth personality. I literally learned some of the professionalism I have in my own career today from watching you on television, and I appreciate your influence on this culture. I also have been challenged myself by the unpartisan attitude you have, and I have learned to apply that to my own life. I truly wish there were more like you in today's media industry. Anyway, I was wondering what documentaries you are currently working on, and what kind of subjects you would like to cover on television (or through other medium) in the future?
Tom Brokaw (2:16 PM)
I'm working on one - 1968. It will be on the History Channel sometime in November or December.
Mr Brokaw, you were always a staple in my household growing up. What was the sentiment of the American people awaiting the fall of Ruth's record? Was there a palpable sense of animosity toward Aaron from any segment of the culture?
Tom Brokaw (2:17 PM)
I think when it happened, people were really excited about it. Part of the reason they didn't get excited about it that Hank and his approach was so workmanlike. He just set out to do it. In his modest way, I remember having breakfast with him in San Diego - we're in a hotel coffee shop and he's just a few away from the record and no one asked him for his autograph.
Tom Brokaw (2:18 PM)
I just want to say that I hope you watch the Henry Aaron special because you will see a great man. You'll learn a lot about how much America has changed since 1973. I hope you'll watch not only ESPN, but NBC News as well.