It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since I saw Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record on national television. On the one hand, it seems a lifetime ago, which — considering that I was a seven year-old baseball illiterate at the time, who was watching the game on a crappy little black and white TV — it really was. On the other, all my memories of the event are so vivid, right down to the discussion of it in Mrs. Crippen's classroom the next day, that it almost seems possible to reach back and touch it. (And as this excellent Bob Nightengale piece in USA Today attests, there are certain aspects of Hank's home run chase that still feel a little bit TOO close today, both for Mr. Aaron and for us.)
There are a lot of wonderful photos out there of Aaron's fateful, record-breaking blast, but the Walter Iooss Jr. one above is my favorite: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium glowing like a spaceship, the Dodger infielders frozen in their positions, Al Downing's body language all but shouting "Oh, shit!" as the ball rockets to left-center, and Hank's shoulders shrugging off the stress of the chase as he executes another perfect follow-through. It's dynamic, it's historic, it's beautiful. It's number 715.
It's interesting to listen to three of the surviving home run calls from that night — Curt Gowdy on NBC-TV, Milo Hamilton on the Braves' radio network, and Vin Scully on the Dodgers radio network. Vin's, of course, is the best — and his line about a black man getting a standing ovation in the deep south pretty much says it all in that low-key, dignified VIn Scully way.
Right on, Hank. And well done.