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As though it were fate, former Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully was the person who called Hank Aaron’s milestone homer as he passed Babe Ruth for the most career home runs when he slugged his 715th bomb.
Aaron died Friday. He was 86.
The Dodgers were playing Aaron’s Atlanta Braves on the evening of April 8, 1974. Aaron, as he detailed in Ken Burns’ 1994 documentary, Baseball, said he had received death threats warning he would be hurt or killed if he broke Ruth’s record. He continued to play his best.
Scully, no doubt aware of that situation, made clear just how huge a moment it was, not only for baseball, but also for history.
“A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” a thrilled Scully said. “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.”
He added, “And it is a great moment for all of us, particularly Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate by not only every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother.”
Aaron was mobbed by fans, some of who ran on the field as he was rounding the bases to congratulate him. In the Burns doc, Aaron said he was so overwhelmed by the moment that he did not think anything of fans being so close to him, but later realized it could have been dangerous given all the threats he had received.
Barry Bonds would later break Aaron’s record.
Burns on Friday said of Aaron’s passing, “Hank Aaron was not only one of baseball’s greatest players, he was also a remarkable American hero, whose perseverance and forbearance in the face of unspeakable racism is a testament to the human spirit. We will miss him.”
Watch the historic moment with Scully’s call below.
12:42: Updated with comment from Ken Burns.
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