Craig Sager Meets Hank Aaron at Home: This Day in Sports History

Kyle Koster
Hank Aaron hit 715 on his day in 1974.
Hank Aaron hit 715 on his day in 1974. / Focus On Sport/Getty Images
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Back in 1974, Hank Aaron blasted the 714th home run of his career on Opening Day. His long march to breaking Babe Ruth's record was almost complete. On April 8, more than 53,000 fans packed into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to see the slugger take his hacks against the Los Angeles Dodgers, some hoping the fateful home run ball would find its way to their glove and then into their bank account.

Facing lefty Al Downing, Aaron walked in his first at-bat. Then in the fourth inning, he turned on a 1-0 pitch and blasted it deep to left-center field. It ended up in the hands of Braves reliever Tom House in the bullpen, who sprinted toward home plate like Smalls after swiping his dad's signed Ruth baseball. A little pre-historical irony there.

As Aaron rounded the bases, the record now all his, two fans raced out to join him. There were 63 policemen working the game but all failed to react in time. It was briefly terrifying considering the racially-motivated death threats Aaron had been dealing with in the lead-up to 715.

Thankfully the duo's intentions were pure if not all too intelligent and the slugger broke free of them as he rounded third.

Aaron was mobbed by his teammates upon reaching home. A shadowy figure in a long trench coat repeatedly tried to enter the scrum. That man was a young Craig Sager, who had a knack of always being in the thick of it.

Sager told the full story of his involvement to Rich Eisen in 2016.

Sager was working at a radio station in Sarasota at the time and flew up for the game even though he wasn't credentialed. He was allowed in and set up shop in the third-base camera well. He took it upon himself to sprint out to intercept Aaron, asking him what it felt like to achieve immortality.

Aaron's answer?

"Thank God it's over."

Sager conducted interviews with players and Aaron's mom. Years later he ran into the former player and mentioned the audio's existence. Together they decided to donate it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, where it now resides.

As one of baseball's most memorable moments, No. 715 gets played over and over again. Which is great because there's so much to look at. The layers of details to notice are spectacular. And an Inspector Gadget cosplaying Sager is among the best.

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