Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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April 8th
“The only thing to do was keep swinging”
“My Motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”

That was Henry Aaron’s approach to baseball and life, especially in the early 1970s, when “Hammerin’ Hank” was playing for the Atlanta Braves and getting close to overtaking Babe Ruth as the all-time home-run leader. As he grew closer to the record-breaking 715 mark, the hate mail began to arrive, and what should have been the best time of his life turned into an ordeal.

Some people couldn’t stand the thought of a black man taking Ruth’s place as the homerun king. There were thousands of malicious letters. “You will be the most hated man in this country.” “You’re black so you have no business being here.” Even death threats. “I’D LIKE TO KILL YOU!! BANG BANG YOUR DEAD. P.S. It mite happen.”

He just kept swinging through the ugliness, quietly carrying on the work of Jackie Robinson, who had first broken baseball’s color barrier, and taking comfort from the flood of fan mail urging him on.

On April 8, 1974, Henry Aaron stepped up to the plate in Atlanta and hammered number 715 over the left centerfield wall. As he rounded the bases, millions of Americans cheered. Few realized the full extent of the gauntlet he’d run. But his dignity and perseverance were evident. President Nixon may have said it best: “When I think of Hank Aaron, I think of power and poise, of courage and consistency. But most of all, I think of a true gentleman, an outstanding citizen. On the field and off, Hank Aaron represents America at its very best.”

American History Parade
1913
The Seventeenth Amendment, which requires senators to be elected by direct popular vote, is ratified.

1952
President Truman orders the seizure of the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike, an act later ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.

1974
Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.

1975
Frank Robinson of the Cleveland Indians makes his debut as the first black manager of a major league baseball team.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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