Going on half a lifetime ago, from Henry Aaron’s bat to the night sky over Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, that baseball asked a nation what it thought of itself.
Babe Ruth, large, verbose, a Yankee and white, had held the record for 53 years, upon his 139th home run.
Other than the occasional stickball debate over whether it was actually “Henry” or “Hank,” the conversations began at the top of his baseball card and ended at the bottom of it.
The people on their feet, screaming his name, celebrating through tears, going soft at the sight of Henry’s mom draped from her son’s neck.
The people on their typewriters, spitting anonymous threats, specific enough that ballpark security guards had to be reminded not to watch Aaron, to turn away from one of the great feats in baseball history, and toward the crowd.
The people who’d welcomed Jackie Robinson seven years before Henry Aaron arrived, who’d wondered how it had taken so long, who on that very night had yet to see a black man manage a major league baseball game, yet applauded the progress.
- Tim Kurkjian's baseball fix: Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth, and he criedESPN
- The good, ugly and beautiful: Behind the scenes of Hank Aaron's home run that broke Babe Ruth's recordmsnNOW
- Today in sports history: Hank Aaron passes the Babe with No. 715Lincoln Journal Star
- Hank Aaron puts historic HR he hit 46 years ago in perspectiveNew York Post
- 46 years ago today, there was a new home run champion of all timeal.com
- Hank Aaron Credits Jackie Robinson as Inspiration for Record-Breaking Home RunInsideHook
- Remember When? Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's home run recordSportsnet.ca
- Craig Sager Meets Hank Aaron at Home: This Day in Sports HistoryThe Big Lead
- HANK AARON - 715: A 13-year-old kid's favorite memoryFOX 5 Atlanta