It was 1974. I watched number 715? I can remember watching Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record. I was in a basement in Illinois. I was watching it with my father and grandfather and some of the locals. Al Downing released the ball and Hammerin’ Hank drove it into the Atlanta sky. As Tom House caught the ball I remember the thrill that rushed through me. Wow… history!
And then there was a voice. Someone in the room blurted out a racist comment. I clearly remember feeling a sense of disappointment at the comment and why… why did that guy stain the moment? I froze. Why did no one speak up? Why did we all act like it never happened and look the other way? I was fifteen years old.
Yes, I saw number 715. And from that day on I wore number 44. Partly to honor the accomplishment the greatest home run hitter of all time. And partly in protest of the dirty comment that still rings in my head. I wore 44 as a way of making amends for my father and grandfather and for all those who heard the racist comment and said nothing and looked the other way.
Coming from a family of baseball lovers, I guess it is only natural that I feel a strong sense of honor surrounds the game of baseball. And in my youth an obsession with statistics and history became a big part of honoring the game. Time passed and I grew older and slightly wiser but numbers still reflected history and they