I write today about a moment in New York history that took place outside of New York City. It’s a moment when New York lost the all-time major league home run record to a player from Atlanta.
Thirty-five years ago today, Hank Aaron hit the 715th home run of his career, surpassing legendary New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth, who had held the record since May 1935.
Of course, the Babe’s 714th and final home run wasn’t hit as a member of the Yankees: he had, by that time, become a member of the Boston Braves. Home run number 714 was, by the way, the Babe’s third of the afternoon, although the Braves lost 11-7 to the Pirates. You can read eye-witness accounts of those home runs in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ruth played his last major-league game five days later in Philadelphia: he hurt his knee playing in the field in the first inning, left the game, and retired two days later.
Aaron finished the 1973 season with 713 career home run, just one behind Ruth’s mark, and during that summer and the winter, he received constant hate mail and several death threats. By all accounts, Aaron was permanently scarred by the experience. Tom Stanton’s Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America offers a gripping account of the year leading up to Aaron’s breaking of the record. And you can read the piece that Sports Illustrated published about Aaron’s home run here.
Aaron held the record until August 7, 2007, when Barry Bonds hit career home run number 756. Bonds currently has 762 career home runs.