Braves country remembers Hank Aaron's 715th home run 49 years later

A wreath is displayed along side the Hank Aaron statute in the Braves memorial garden during the Atlanta Braves 2021 season home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 09, 2021 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin

The Atlanta Braves were down 3-1 in the bottom of the 4th inning. Darrell Evans had just reached base after an error by Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell and the crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium – not to mention a national audience – was on the edge as Hank Aaron stepped to the plate.

It was April 8, 1974, and for nearly 59 years, Babe Ruth was the home run king. That was about the change. 

Al Downing was on the mound for the Dodgers and Aaron was just seconds away from shipping his 34-ounce Louisville Slugger through the strike zone with those powerful wrists.

"He’s sitting on 714," Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton said, calling the game. "Here’s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. Here’s a drive into left center field. That ball is gonna be ... outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron."

The ball rose higher and higher as that crowd of 53,775 rose to its feet with a collective roar.

Vin Scully was the voice the national TV audience heard.

"Fastball ... It’s a high fly to the deep left center field. Buckner goes back to the fence ... It is gone!" the legendary Dodgers broadcaster called that night.

It might be what Scully did not say that also had a tremendous impact. It was the half-minute of silence. He let the crowd tell the story.

"That’s when I let it go for however long, and I stood there thinking about the impact, and the more I thought about it ... That’s what I said when the crowd died down, about what a great moment – not just Henry, not just for the Braves, not just for baseball – this was the greatest impact at home run, sociologically," Scully told Braves broadcaster Chip Caray in an interview shortly before his retirement in 2016. "I mean, here is a Black man in the Deep South getting an absolute love ovation for breaking the record of a white icon. To me, that’s what made that home run the most important home run that I ever called."

Finally, home run No. 715 came down in the Braves' bullpen. Despite a mighty leap that left him dangling atop the fence, Dodgers left fielder Bill Buckner never had a chance. Atlanta reliever Tom House made the catch at 9:07 p.m. and swiftly returned the ball to Aaron, who was celebrating at home plate with his teammates and parents.

Two 17-year-old men, both white, jumped the fence at first base, rounded the bases, patting a startled No. 44 on the back before racing back to the stands in left field. Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay would later meet Aaron in 2010 and talk about that moment.

"It’s wonderful to see them,’’ Aaron said in an interview with the Associated Press. "I often get asked, ‘Whatever happened to those two guys?’ It’s nice to see them once again and know they’re doing fine, doing well.’’

It was a night forever etched in baseball history and Braves lore.

Hank Aaron holds up the ball that broke Babe Ruth's home run record Apr. 8, 1974. Aaron hit the ball over the wall for the 715th record-breaking home run in the fourth inning off Dodger pitcher Al Downing. With Aaron is his personal bodyguard, Calvin

How will the Braves honor Hank Aaron on April 8, 2023?

Two years after his passing, and 49 years after his historic home run, the Atlanta Braves will be honoring the hall of fame legend on Saturday.

The Braves are expected to debut their City Connect jersey, which is a modern interpretation to the iconic 1974 uniform Aaron wore when he slugged No. 715.

The uniform features "The A" on the front, a 715 on the inside collar, and a "Keep Swinging # 44" by the tag.

The Braves hosting their first series at home at Truist Park against the Padres. First pitch is at 7:20 p.m.

Who was Hank Aaron?

Henry Louis Aaron was born Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama to his parents Herbert and Estella Aaron. He headed a long list of outstanding players who came from that Gulf Coast city — Satchel Paige, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Ozzie Smith among them.

Aaron left Mobile to first play professionally for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. Aaron, who initially hit with a cross-handed style, was spotted by the Braves while trying out for the Clowns. The Giants also were interested — imagine him in the same outfield with Mays — but Aaron signed with Milwaukee, spent two seasons in the minors and came up to the Braves in 1954 after Bobby Thomson was injured in spring training.


Hank Aaron, the right fielder for the Atlanta Braves, shown in this close up photograph, was named to the National League All Star team for the 16th straight year. It was the 13th time he was named to the starting outfield. Aaron is the only repeater

It only took three months before the Major Leagues came calling. Aaron signed with the Braves organization and some of his favorite Braves memories happened while playing in Milwaukee. Like a walk-off home run in 1957 to win the National League pennant for the Braves. They'd win the World Series that year

Aaron was a full-fledged star by 1957 when he led the Braves to that World Series victory over Mantle’s New York Yankees. The following year, Milwaukee made it back to the Series, only to blow a 3-1 lead and lose to the Yankees in seven games.

Though he played for nearly two more decades, Aaron never came so close to a championship again.

In 1959, the Braves finished in a tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first in the NL, only to lose a best-of-three playoff to the Dodgers for the pennant. Aaron’s only other playoff appearance came in 1969, when the Braves were swept by New York’s Amazin’ Mets in the inaugural NL Championship Series.

His dearth of October appearances was baseball’s loss. In 17 postseason games, Aaron batted .362 (25 of 69) with six homers and 16 RBIs.

Former President Jimmy Carter described Aaron as "a personal hero."

"A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come," said Carter, who often attended Braves games with his wife, Rosalynn.


George W. Bush, a one-time owner of the Texas Rangers, presented Aaron in 2002 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.

"The former Home Run King wasn’t handed his throne," Bush said in a statement Friday. "He grew up poor and faced racism as he worked to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Hank never let the hatred he faced consume him."

Aaron spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves, first in Milwaukee, then in Atlanta after the franchise moved to the Deep South in 1966.

While knocking the ball over the fence became his signature accomplishment, the Hammer was hardly a one-dimensional star. In fact, he never hit more than 47 homers in a season (though he did have eight years with at least 40 dingers).

A true five-tool player, Aaron won three Gold Gloves, and in 1963 stole 31 bases to go along with his 41 home runs that year. 

Aaron would leave Atlanta and return to Milwaukee for the final two seasons of his career. It was there that he hit his 755th and a final home run on July 20, 1976. He finished his career back in Milwaukee, traded to the Brewers after the 1974 season when he refused to take a front-office job that would have required a big pay cut.

After retiring as a player in 1976, Aaron made amends with the Braves for trading him away. He returned as a vice president and director of player development, a task he held for 13 years before settling into a largely ceremonial role as senior vice president and assistant to the president in 1989.

In 1982, Aaron got the call from the Hall of Fame and his parents and wife Billye were there to see him inducted into Cooperstown.

Atlanta Braves Hank Aaron hits career home run 715 against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing on Aril 8, 1974 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Aaron’s career total was surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 — though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds finished his career with 762. Aaron never begrudged someone — not even a tarnished star — eclipsing his mark.

His common refrain: More than three decades as the king was long enough. It was time for someone else to hold the crown.

Besides, no one could take away his legacy.

"I just tried to play the game the way it was supposed to be played," Aaron said, summing it up better than anyone.


Bonds praised Aaron "for being a trailblazer through adversity and setting an example for all of us African American ballplayers who came after you."

Aaron’s journey to Babe Ruth’s mark was hardly pleasant. He was the target of extensive hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s cherished record of 714.

"If I was white, all America would be proud of me," Aaron said almost a year before he passed Ruth. "But I am Black."

Aaron was shadowed constantly by bodyguards and forced to distance himself from teammates. He kept all those hateful letters, a bitter reminder of the abuse he endured and never forgot.

"It’s very offensive," he once said. "They call me ‘n-----’ and every other bad word you can come up with. You can’t ignore them. They are here. But this is just the way things are for Black people in America. It’s something you battle all of your life."

He ventured into business, buying fast food chicken franchises, doughnut shops and an automobile dealership. He also dipped into politics as campaign treasurer for his brother-in-law, David Scott, who was elected to the U.S. House.


Fans pay their respect to Hank Aaron at the 715 Wall site of Hank Aarons historic home run on the former grounds of Fulton County Stadium, a previous home of the Atlanta Braves on January 24, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Aaron passed away on Friday, Jan

When you think of Hank Aaron you think of class. 

Whether it was how he handled the racist hate mail he received during his home run chase or when Barry Bonds broke his record in 2007 amid rumors of Bonds using performance enhancers. 

Aaron was awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal and the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Aaron became a revered, almost mythical figure, even though he never pursued the spotlight. He was thrilled when the U.S. elected Obama as its first African American president in 2008. Former President Bill Clinton credited Aaron with helping carve a path of racial tolerance that made Obama’s victory possible.

"You’ve given us far more than we’ll ever give you," Clinton said at Aaron’s 75th birthday celebration.

"He never missed an opportunity to lead," former President Barack Obama said, describing Aaron as an "unassuming man" who set a "towering example."

FOX 5's Cody Chaffins and The Associated Press contributed to this report