Volume 93, Issue 4
Friday, June 4, 1999
Sports history was re-written on April 8, 1974. Hank Aaron stepped up to the plate, one home run behind the legendary Babe Ruth for the Major League lead in career home runs.
Tens of thousands of fans were jammed into Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium. Aaron was facing Cincinnati Reds pitcher Al Downing and lifted Downing's pitch into the Braves bullpen, for record breaking home run number 715.
The significance of this moment is not just the home run, but what Hank Aaron went through while trying to achieve this milestone.
Aaron received numerous death threats and warnings not to break Ruth's record at times receiving up to 3,000 letters a week.
The 1999 Major League Baseball season marks the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron's record breaking performance. To this day, Aaron still has the record and the hate mail.
On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. broke baseball's iron man streak previously held by Lou Gehrig at 2,130 consecutive games. Ripken did Gehrig one better by playing in 2,131 consecutive games with a match up against the California Angels. He ended his iron man streak last year at 2,632 consecutive games.
From his start 13 years prior to breaking the record, Ripken had never missed a game. What makes his accomplismentmore impressive is he was at the most grueling position on the field shortstop.
Before 1995, concerns were raised whether or not the long baseball strike would end and allow Ripken to break the record. He refused to cross the picket lines solely for the record. Thankfully, for Major League Baseball and Ripken, the strike ended on March 31, 1995 with a collective bargaining agreement.
Ripken's success helped generate interest in a baseball season which was mired by the strike and the resulting negative attitude from fans.
AllTime Batting Leaders Home runs
1. Hank Aaron 755
2. Babe Ruth 714
3. Willie Mays 660
4. Frank Robinson 586
5. Harmon Killebrew 573
Copyright © The Gazette 1999