50 Years Ago Hank Aaron Hit Home Run 715, Breaking Babe Ruth’s Record | MLB Is Just 6 Percent Black But 100 Percent Invested In Getting Bros Back On The Diamond

Hank Aaron passed away back in January of 2021 at age 86.

Baseball has suffered some considerable losses in the past few years: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Dick Allen, Tony Fernandez, Tom Seaver, Tommy Lasorda, J.R. Richard, and Don Sutton and Vida Blue, just to name a few.

It seemed as if Aaron would live forever. Baseball’s “true” home run king was probably the second most influential African-American player in the history of the sport after Jackie Robinson, an undeniable national treasure and inspiration for all.

One Home Run Changed The Game

Most can’t honestly understand what a single home run meant 50 years ago. After all, we have seen so much change since April 8, 1974. We even had a two-term African American president in Barack Obama.

If you think that was a pipe dream in 1974, the same would be said about a Black man having the most home runs in Major League Baseball history.

Before that historic blast, four days earlier, Aaron tied the iconic Babe Ruth with a bomb against “The Big Red Machine.

First, Jackie Robinson broke down the color barrier. Then, it was Aaron, making the national pastime ours.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Aaron’s 715th home run. Aaron’s homer off of Dodgers’ Al Downing at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 home runs.

It was a mark most thought would stand forever.

It was such a big deal that not all celebrated. In fact, Aaron was more relieved than happy. Aaron received racist hate mail and death threats. His kids had security people watching over them during their dad’s pursuit of a piece of American history.

He came a long way from Mobile, Alabama. Born on Feb. 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron was one of eight children born to Herbert and Estella Aaron. As he challenged the mythical Babe Ruth for MLB’s sacred record back in the 1970s, he received death threats and racist taunts at the ballparks.

Aaron stood brave and prevailed.

The Braves have honored Aaron in so many ways over the years. In 2014 they wore 40th-anniversary patches on their uniform sleeves to mark the historic occasion. He was revered until his death at age 86.

And while some won’t forget Aaron’s shining moment, he doesn’t always get the props he deserves.

After all, Aaron played 23 seasons and nearly averaged 100 RBI a season (2,297 RBI total). His production was as consistent as a windshield wiper and impactful as the words of James Baldwin.

Of course, Barry Bonds, another Black Knight, passed Aaron as baseball’s home run king. Aaron hit 755 and Bonds hit 762. The validity of Bonds’ homers is questioned by many baseball fans and HOF voters to this day.

But nearly a half-century ago, it was Aaron’s blast over the left-field fence in Atlanta that transformed America, allowing Black people all over this country to take ownership of the greatest title in the land. Like they were sharing a big pot of gumbo.

It’s a great moment in our history. A shining moment for Black baseball.

Number Of Blacks In MLB Still Low At 6 Percent

According to the latest stats released on April 8 by MLB, while the number might not meet the desires of Black baseball fans, they are nonetheless promising and indicate an increase in the future.

The numbers also indicate that MLB’s Diversity and Developmental Program and the various events such as the Dream Series, Hank Aaron Invitational, etc. are actually working and helping to produce more interest in the game at the grass-roots level and more draftable prospects.

Overall, there were 57 Black players on Opening Day rosters (a decrease of two players from 2023)

NOTE: there are eight more players on overall Opening Day rosters (incl. active, IL, restricted, suspended), which brings down the percentage 0.2 points. 

There are 10 teams with three or more Black players – Baltimore Orioles (3), Cincinnati Reds (3), Cleveland Guardians (4), Miami Marlins (5), Milwaukee Brewers (3), Minnesota Twins (3), New York Yankees (5), Pittsburgh Pirates (3), St. Louis Cardinals (4), Washington Nationals (4). 

There are 27 additional Black players on 40-man rosters who are currently in the minor leagues or have already been called up.

On a positive front, two Black players have already been called up from the non-40 man rosters – Austin Martin (Minnesota) and Trey Lipscomb (Washington)

On Spring Breakout rosters, 9.5 percent of the players were Black, while 46 percent of the rosters were overall diverse.

Thirty of the 74 Black players on Spring Breakout rosters were alumni of MLB’s Development (“MLB Develops”)


Black players have represented a high percentage of top selections in the past three years, (12 of top 100 in 2021; 13 of top 100 in 2022; 10 of the top 50 in 2023). 


Overall, more than 635 MLB Develops program alumni played college baseball.  Approximately 90% of this group is Black (570 players

Beyond the numbers, MLB is developing a mentor-student dynamic between the OG Black players and the new generation who learn from them in these programs, forging a brotherhood where the experienced players help the younger prospects to navigate any systemic or cultural challenges they have as they climb the ladder to the next level of baseball as a minority.

That’s an aspect of baseball’s efforts to increase Black participation that Hank Aaron would be proud of.

More TSL Stories:

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“Doesn’t Matter To Me”| Marcus Stroman Establishes Boundaries With Desperate Yankees By Refusing Opening Day Start (theshadowleague.com)

“The NFL Got A Problem” | Deion Sanders Thinks Two-Way Star Travis Hunter Should Get Paid Like NFL’s Version Of $700 Million MLB Star Shohei Ohtani (theshadowleague.com)

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