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Considered one of the best baseball players of all time, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record when he hit his 715th home run in 1974, before setting a new Major League Record with 755 home runs in the same year.
Hank Aaron - Mini Biography (5:09)
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Babe Ruth - Full Biography (47:18)
Hank Aaron is a former major league baseball player who played for 23 seasons who started out in the Negro Leagues in the 1950s.
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One of baseball's greatest players, Babe Ruth became an American icon. This documentary chronicles his life from the water fronts of Baltimore, to early success in Boston, to living legend in New York.
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In 1956, after winning the first of two of his batting titles, Aaron registered an unrivaled 1957 season, taking home the National League MVP and nearly nabbing the Triple Crown by hitting 44 homeruns, knocking in another 132, and batting .322.
That same year, Aaron demonstrated his ability to come up big when it counted most. His 11th inning homerun in late September propelled the Braves to the World Series, where he led underdog Milwaukee to an upset win over the New York Yankees in seven games.
With the game still years away from the multimillion-dollar contracts that would later dominate player salaries, Aaron's annual pay in 1959 was around $30,000. When he equaled that amount that same year in endorsements, Aaron realized there may be more in store for him if he continued to hit for power. "I noticed that they never had a show called 'Singles Derby,'" he once explained.
He was right, of course, and over the next decade and a half, the always-fit Aaron banged out a steady stream of 30 and 40 homerun seasons. In 1973, at the age of 39, Aaron was still a force, clubbing a remarkable 40 homeruns to finish just one run behind Babe Ruth's all-time career mark of 714.
But the chase to beat the Babe's record revealed that world of baseball was far from being free of the racial tensions that prevailed around it. Letters poured into the Braves offices, as many as 3,000 a day for Aaron. Some wrote to congratulate him, but many others were appalled that a black man should break baseball's most sacred record. Death threats were a part of the mix.
Still, Aaron pushed forward. He didn't try to inflame the atmosphere, but he didn't keep his mouth shut either, speaking out against the league's lack of ownership and management opportunities for minorities. "On the field, blacks have been able to be super giants," he once stated. "But, once our playing days are over, this is the end of it and we go back to the back of the bus again."
In 1974, after tying the Babe on Opening Day in Cincinnati, Aaron came home with his team. On April 15, he banged out his record 715th homerun at 9:07 p.m. in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a triumph and a relief. The more than 50,000 fans on hand cheered him on as he rounded the bases. There were fireworks and a band, and when he crossed home plate, Aaron's parents were there to greet him.
Overall, Aaron finished the 1974 season with 20 homeruns. He played two more years, moving back to Milwaukee to finish out his career to play in the same city where he'd started.
After retiring as a player, Aaron moved into the Atlanta Braves front office as executive vice-president, where he has been a leading spokesman for minority hiring in baseball. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1982. His autobiography, I Had a Hammer, was published in 1990.
In 1999, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of breaking Ruth's record, Major League Baseball announced the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best overall hitter in each league.
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