This Month’s Feature Story
Have you ever found yourself looking for something interesting to talk or write about, but felt overwhelmed by choice? Well, this is my dilemma—as I set at my computer while listening to repeatedly loud cracks of thunder and seeing vivid flashes of lightening just outside of my window —you see, this will be my very first feature story on this, my new website. So naturally, I want whatever non-fiction topic I choose to hopefully be a good one.
Shall I open with—perhaps what I know best—the gloom and doom of how embezzlers and fraudsters literally steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from their most trusting employers, leaving many not only shock-stricken, but near financial ruin? Or perhaps, take the enjoyable and lighter side by writing about what I always classify as my fun topic, the history of Major League Baseball?
Well, baseball it is. I want this special feature to start on the enjoyable side; embezzlers and fraudsters will take up more than their fair share of this space in months to come. Besides, this is the opening month of the game’s 2014 season, and also the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s historic record-breaking home run. Enjoy!
Hank Aaron Steals “The Babe’s” Thunder
To baseball fans everywhere, Opening Day is a big deal! Die-hard fans may forget their spouse’s birthday or anniversary, but not Opening Day! It is the official start of spring—Opening Day is not just another game, it is an experience, just ask Hank Aaron!
Opening Day in the home stadium of the Cincinnati Reds was not only special to Hank Aaron, it also conjured up memories of the role that Cincinnati’s baseball club played decades ago—in the 1880s. That was the time when teams were competing fiercely to win the honors of being awarded the privilege of “opening the Openers” for the National League.
Back then, stepping up to the plate for the Cincinnati Red Stockings in their quest to earn this right was their first business manager, a fellow named Frank Bancroft. Bancroft was relentless in his Opening Day promotional efforts and as result the Red Stockings were awarded the honor of “opening the Openers” for the National League. (That is, the Red Stockings were given the honor of starting the season one day in advance of all other home teams.) For his dedication and exemplary work, Frank Bancroft is remembered as the “Father of Opening Day”.
The Cincinnati Reds held onto their privilege of “opening the Openers” for the National League from 1876-1989. Only twice during this time (1877 and 1966) were the Reds forced to debut on the road due to rainouts. Finally in 1990, this longstanding tradition was broken when the Cincinnati Reds were scheduled to appear as the visitors against the Houston Astros.
Now, let’s move the clock forward, making a brief stop at the grand opening of the Reds’ new Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970. The Cincinnati Reds were playing the Atlanta Braves. In the top of the first inning, Hank Aaron swings his mighty bat and the very first home run ever hit in Riverfront Stadium makes its way into baseball’s archives.
As our history-making journey continues forward, it again brings us to a stop at that very same, Riverfront Stadium; this time on Opening Day, April 4, 1974. It’s Hank Aaron once again, stepping up to the plate in his first at-bat of the 1974 season. It was the top of the first and “Hammerin’ Hank” facing the Reds’ Jack Billingham, took one mighty swing of his bat and nailed his historic career 714th home run out of the park to tie Babe Ruth’s record.
Move over “Babe”, Hank’s back home! It was Monday, April 8, 1974, and Atlanta was abuzz with the sounds of “will he do it tonight?” Tonight was to be the opening game of the Braves at-home season. They are playing the LA Dodgers. As the game approached its starting time, a record number of fans filled the stadium, and perhaps world-wide, millions more were watching on television in hopes of witnessing one of the greatest feats in MLB history. Would this be the evening that Hank Aaron would accomplish what many thought was impossible—breaking both his and Babe Ruth’s career home run records. Hank didn’t let the crowd down; in the fourth inning, the Dodger pitcher, Al Downing fired a high fastball, and Hank, taking his first swing of the night, planted his record-setting homer number 715 in the bullpen.
When Hank Aaron’s career ended, he took his place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame record books with 755 career home runs.