On April 15, 1974 I was in front of the television set browsing (it was '74 and we didn't have a remote for our black and white TV, so you couldn't legitimately 'channel surf'') and believe it or not I stopped on this channel right at this time...
Now at this time I didn't like baseball. I barely knew who Hank Aaron was. But I did know that someone named "Hammerin' Hank Aaron was close to breaking Babe Ruth's home run record pretty soon. I also remember, vaguely, that there were some anger among baseball fans because some didn't want the Bambino's record broken. What I don't think I knew was that there were many didn't want it broken because Aaron was black.
I also didn't know how much the hate mail he received wounded him. Pretty deeply. So deeply in fact that he kept a good deal of that hate mail to remind him of America's inequality and hatred.
Fast forward 40 years. Aaron has spoken his mind regarding racial inequality and how far we have to go in this country to attain true equality.
"We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he's treated."
Now this is 40 years after Aaron's historic home run. America is supposed to have gotten past the hatred and vitriol spewed back in the day. And while there are clearly Americans with short term memories or those who like to draw false equivelencies between the way Presidents Obama has been treated v. Bush, surely those people can speak to Hank Aaron and say, 'You're wrong Hank. Stick with baseball, stay out of politics.'
"Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)'' read an email from a man named Edward, according to USA Today."
"Edward evidently used the racist epithet five times."
"My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur)," he wrote in closing."
"One man called Aaron a "racist scumbag," while another vowed to never attend another Braves game until Aaron is fired from the team's front office. A man named David said he plans to burn Aaron's autobiography."
Soooo, just how much has America "changed"?