For more than 20 years, Hank Aaron quietly went about his work, doing all the things that Mantle and Mays did, but with less media attention. That is, until he came within striking distance of the most prestigious record in baseball: Babe Ruth's 714 lifetime home runs. The two seasons (1973-74) Aaron spent closing in on Ruth's mark should have been a time of excitement and joyful anticipation. Instead, it was a horror. In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the feat, Tom Stanton takes a look at the withering pressures the slugger faced in Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America.
The increasing media focus and demands on his time as well as the daily grind of being an aging athlete were compounded by the small mindedness of those who believed that Aaron, as an African American, had no right to such acclaim. Instead of enjoying the ride, it reached the point where Aaron told reporters, "I want to get this nightmare over with." Stanton mixes sport with social commentary as he describes the racism Aaron faced, including death threats to himself and his family, hate mail and the inexplicable indifference of baseball's commissioner Bowie Kuhn.