Starting Nine: He wore it well

Written by: Craig Muder

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine includes must-see artifacts from every big league team. Check out the Braves Starting Nine online.

Henry Aaron finished the 1973 season with 713 career home runs, then waited all winter for his appointment with destiny.

In Aaron-like, workmanlike fashion, the Braves slugger quickly ended the drama just four games into the 1974 campaign.

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On April 8, 1974, Aaron’s fourth-inning home run off the Dodgers’ Al Downing gave him 715 for his career and sent him past Babe Ruth on baseball’s all-time list. The homer came on the heels of an Opening Day blast against the Reds’ Jack Billingham that left Aaron tied with Ruth.

After sitting out the Braves’ second game of the three-game set with the Reds on April 6, Aaron returned to the lineup April 7 and went 0-for-3, setting the stage for the Braves’ first home game of the year the following night against the Dodgers.

Aaron drew a walk leading off the bottom of the second inning, leaving the sellout crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium restless. Aaron quickly scored on a double by Dusty Baker, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers, who would go on to win the National League pennant in 1974, took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third inning. But in the bottom of the fourth, Darrell Evans reached on an error by Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell to lead off the frame.

Aaron followed by hitting a 1-0 pitch from Downing over the left-centerfield wall to tie the game – and surpass Ruth.

The fans erupted into cheers. Two of them, Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay, jumped onto the field from the first base side and jogged with Aaron soon after he passed second base, congratulating him as millions of others wished they could.

The jersey Gaston and Courtenay patted – the one that Aaron was wearing – is a part of the Hall of Fame’s collection in Cooperstown.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Starting Nine

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine is a lineup of must-see artifacts from our vast collection containing tens of thousands of pieces that preserve the magical moments and memorable stories of our National Pastime. Our curators have spent countless hours hand-picking special objects from every major league team to create a lineup of pieces you simply won’t believe we have!