by Mike Pyatt
When Hammerin’ Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s MLB career home run record, on April 8, 1974, it was hailed as one of the biggest sports events of the century in Atlanta Fulton County stadium before more than fifty-thousand fans. Pearl Bailey sang the national anthem that day. Millions watched TV in anticipation. Typically Atlanta openers had 17 policeman on duty. That day there were 63. Aaron’s life had been threatened, before and after. He received hate mail for years because he was black. One letter exemplified the stark racism, “Dear (deleted) Henry, you are not going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it…Whites are far more superior than (deleted). My gun is watching your every black move.” Years later Aaron spoke out, “If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me,” he was quoted by the New York Daily News. “But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are. I’ve always thought racism a problem, even with the progress as America has made.” Is it, as Aaron remarked, a sickness? Is it contagious? Or is it ingrained in the heart to be expunged by legislation?