Obit of the Day: Chasing Hank Aaron
On April 8, 1974 Hank Aaron knocked an Al Downing fastball into the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen for home run number 715, making him the all-time leader, passing Babe Ruth. After he came around second base two young men ran up behind him, patted him on the back and fled the frame. The two 17-year-olds are now as connected with that home run as Aaron, Downing, announcer Vin Scully, and Braves pitcher Tom House, who caught the ball.
The boys, Britt Gaston (brown jacket) and Cliff Courtenay (navy sweater), were arrested and were bailed out by Gaston’s dad, who was at the game with them. It may be the best $100 ever spent.
The boys were lucky they were only arrested. The previous season and into April 1974 Aaron had received numerous death threats from those who felt a black man had no right to surpass the achievements of a white man. Aaron had even hired a bodyguard. Britton and Courtenay may just as easily been beaten to a pulp. But Aaron, after what appears to be a slight moment of panic, shrugged them off.
Britt Gaston, who passed away at the age of 55 on September 3, 2011, reunited with Courtenay and Aaron in 2010 for the first time in 36 years.
(Video of Aaron’s home run is courtesy of beefweef on YouTube.com and copyright of the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball.)
[Originally posted in 2011 and re-posted in honor of the 40th anniversary of Mr. Aaron’s home run.]
Hank Aaron at his press conference following the game where he passed Babe Ruth with home run 715.
The Braves beat the Dodgers 7-4.
WP - Ron Reed
SV - Buzz Capra
LP - Al Downing
Photo courtesy tucec9.tumblr.com
Hank Aaron hitting home run number 715 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
April 8, 1974
Aaron went 1-3 with a walk, and the 2-run home run in the 4th inning off Al Downing. Darrell Evans was on first following a walk went Aaron went deep. Tom House caught the ball in the Braves bullpen.