Today is Hank Aaron Day. Or at least it should be. It was on this date, April 8, in 1974 that Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record.
In a sport like baseball with so many historical moments, this is one of the most important. Aaron lived through months of tormenting letters filled with racist threats leading up to the record. So when he hit it, for him it was a sense of relief.
For baseball, it was a turning point. Aaron began playing baseball in the Negro Leagues, just a few years after the MLB had desegregated. So Aaron breaking one of the most sacred of records became an extremely important accomplishment.
In honor of Aaron's feat, we'll give our ranking for the top 5 most memorable home runs.
No. 1 — Aaron's 715th
Nobody was more famous or bigger than life in sports than Babe Ruth, and his 714 home runs was believed to be an unbreakable record until Aaron got close. Because time in history, it wasn't as significant an event as when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, but it was a big moment. Aaron would go on to finish with 755 home runs in his career and was the career-leader for 31 years before Barry Bonds passed him. Still, because Bonds was suspected of using steroids during the run up to breaking Aaron's mark, many old-time baseball fans still consider Aaron the home run king.
No. 2 — Bill Mazeroski to win Game 7 of the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Major league baseball has played the World Series 111 times since 1903 and Mazeroski's blast in the bottom of the ninth inning against the New York Yankees is the only time a player ended a series in the ninth inning of Game 7 with a homer. It might also be the only time a home run got a player into the Hall of Fame. Mazeroski hit .260 lifetime with 138 homers. He had a 17-year career largely because he was one of the better fielding second basemen in the game.
No. 3 — Babe Ruth's called shot
The best part is that nobody really knows if Ruth actually called it. During the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, Ruth was being heckled by Cubs players. During an at-bat, Ruth made a pointing gesture and on the next pitch, he hit a home run to centerfield. Ruth claimed he called the home run. Other accounts have him pointing to Cubs pitcher Charlie Root. Still others say he was pointing at the Cubs bench. While we'll never know for sure, it's still one of the great baseball moments. It was also the last postseason home run Ruth ever hit.
No. 4 — "The Giants win the pennant"
After trailing the Dodgers in the National League standings for most of the season, the New York Giants made a furious push at the end of the season to force a three-game playoff. In the third game, the Dodgers were leading 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Alvin Dark and Don Mueller singled and Dark scored on a Whitney Lockman double, putting runners at second and third. Bobby Thompson then hit a home run that became known as the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to give the Giants the win. As Thompson is rounding the bases, radio broadcaster Russ Hodges uttered his famous call "The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant".
No. 5 — Mark McGwire hits 62
Yes, McGwire's feat of breaking Roger Maris' record for most home runs in a season is tainted because McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. But the 1998 season, with McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing Maris all season brought excitement to the baseball regular season with record-breaking attendance and TV ratings. This season and this chase seemed to be a peak for the sport. A large audience watched on TV as McGwire hit the homer against the Cubs and was congratulated by Cubs players all around the bases, then hugging the Maris family in the stands.
© 2017 USATODAY.COM