HANK AARON AND THE HOME RUN THAT CHANGED AMERICA

Tom Stanton, Author . Morrow $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-057976-0

In April 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's longstanding record for homers, which Aaron had days earlier tied on his first swing of the '74 baseball season. Stanton, whose The Final Season won the Casey Award for best baseball book of 2001, gives a solid account of Aaron's career and the tumultuous year preceding his historic run. This is a fitting celebration in advance of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the event, as well as a solid tribute to the man who "played in more games, got more at-bats, knocked in more runs, collected more total bases, recorded more extra-base hits, and hit more home runs—755—than any other ballplayer." The most fascinating and horrifying part of Stanton's account—sadly for baseball history—is the extent to which Aaron's historic run was marred by constant hate mail and death threats from so-called fans angry that a black man would soon be breaking a white man's record. Stanton effectively uses ballpark attendance records to show that, while Aaron was selling out stadiums across the country, his own Atlanta Braves ballpark was "two-thirds empty" on the day that he hit home run 700, and that 10,000 seats were unsold before the day he broke the record, while 35 million to 40 million people watched or listened to the game worldwide. Stanton shows how Aaron came to understand that "the home run record carried significance beyond baseball," and how he effectively used the media attention to consciously continue the legacy of Jackie Robinson and strongly argue for the increased role of African-Americans in major league baseball management. Agent, Philip Spitzer. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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