The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint-New record seekers lack sports integrity

By Steve Knight/managing editor

Usually at this time of year, with no football until September, I look forward to players reporting for baseball’s spring training.

With stories about Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez filling the sports pages, giving the sport yet another black eye, I found myself thinking back to an era when players didn’t need steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs to become champion­s—a home run champion like Hank Aaron.

Henry Aaron—Hammerin’ Hank, home run king, Most Valuable Player, hall of famer, ambassador of the game and gentleman. No asterisk needed.

Officially, he no longer owns the major league all-time home run record, but, according to Sporting News, he still holds records for most home runs with one team (Braves, 733), RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and most games played (3,298).

Aaron started in the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns and then worked his way through the then-Milwaukee Braves’ minor league system, breaking into the majors in 1954.

He hit the record-breaking 715th home run against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing April 8, 1974.

All of America, regardless of race, came together, if only for a moment.

“What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us and particularly Henry Aaron,” said legendary broadcaster Vin Scully at the time.

Aaron would eventually hit 755 home runs in his career.

Yet on the way to that record, Aaron suffered discrimination and endured racial slurs as much as any player since Jackie Robinson.

Aaron received hate-filled letters, some life-threatening. Many white Americans could not accept a black man breaking the immortal Babe Ruth’s record.

“It bothers me. I have four children, and I have to be concerned about their welfare,” said Aaron, in a May 28, 1973, Sports Illustrated interview.

Now, many Americans cannot accept Barry Bonds breaking the immortal Hank Aaron’s record, but for a far different reason. And Americans may not accept Alex Rodriguez breaking Bonds’ record, if the time comes, for the same reason.

Rodriguez admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs when he was with the Texas Rangers, but saying sorry will never be enough.

Not as long as Hank Aaron, who recently turned 75, remains part of baseball history.

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