April 9, 2014, 2:42 am
Forty years ago tonight, on April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run to pass Babe Ruth as MLB’s all-time HR leader. Aaron hit number 715 off Dodgers lefty Al Downing out of the reach of left fielder Bill Buckner into the bullpen at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium where it was caught by Braves reliever Tom House.
Aaron spent his last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and would retire after the 1976 season finishing his career with 755 HR. That total would, of course, be surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 (who finished his career with 762 HR). But many still consider Hank Aaron the home run king.
One of the highlights of my visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012 on the occasion of my 40th birthday was the Hank Aaron Gallery of Records. Included in this gallery was one of the thousands of pieces of racist hate mail Aaron received in pursuit of The Bambino. Aaron didn’t have much fun making history at 40. But at 80 he can be content with the knowledge that even if his HR record no longer stands no one can take away the things he’s done.
Hank Aaron still holds the all-time RBI record with 2,297. He might keep this one forever although Albert Pujols of the Angels (1500) and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers (1263) have an outside shot. Then again Cabrera could drive in 100 runs for 10 straight seasons and still not equal Aaron. When it comes to baseball, Hank Aaron still has few equals.