#Shortstops: The Other Side of No. 715

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Cassidy Lent

We all know how the story goes. Hank Aaron ended the 1973 season with 713 home runs, just two shy of breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.

Aaron, in the Braves’ fourth game of the following season, knocked in No. 715 on April 8, 1974. It came during the fourth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. As he rounded second base, he was approached and congratulated by two teenage fans, who had moved down to the front row of seats for just this moment.

According to Britt Gaston, one of the two teenagers, they “jumped the rail half expecting someone to stop us any way they could, but I guess we caught everyone by surprise.” Aaron was also caught by surprise, and, after elbowing them away, continued his home run trot. However, he later admitted that he “was kind of more surprised more people didn’t come out of the stands.”

This moment has been forever captured in a photograph by Ron Sherman. But how did that photograph, the digital version of which is now a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Photo Archives, come to be? Sherman, an independent photographer and creator of this image, tells the following story:

On April 8, 1974, on a freelance assignment for United Press International, I was one of more than a hundred photographers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium that night when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record. From my position in the field level photo box along the third base line, I made a series of images as he rounded second base and was joined by a pair of teenagers (Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay). It was one of 544 images I made that night, and, in those pre-digital days, I didn’t know it was special until I saw it in the darkroom after the game. Other photographers had better angle of Aaron’s home run swing, but it was my photograph (sent around the world by UPI) that captures the special celebration of his historical accomplishment.

But that’s only part of the story. The negative of the photograph has done its fair share of traveling since its creation.

According to Sherman, “UPI asked me to let the New York office borrow the negative so they could make a large print for their office…The negative stayed in the UPI archives until they sold them some years later to Bettmann Archives and then Corbis Stock Photos.”

Sherman finally retrieved his negative from Corbis in 2006.

Since the opening of the Hall of Fame’s exhibit Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream in 2009, this image has been prominently displayed without attribution.

The Museum had traced the origin of the image from UPI to the Bettman Archive to Corbis but never knew who took the iconic image.

With the mystery now solved, the photograph is now properly accredited to Sherman.

Cassidy Lent is the reference librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series