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RIP Hammerin’ Hank
Greettings from The Booth!
For those that don’t know, in addition to my football play-by-play duties at Shenandoah University, I also handle the public address for men and women’s basketball at SU. Someone asked me recently what it was like to do PA with no fans in attendance at the Wilkins Center. My answer was that I just do what I normally would do. The duties are scaled down a bit, for example, with no crowd, there are no announcements during time outs. I just do a quick intro, starting lineups, and announce who scored a basket or committed a foul. Mainly, I think this contributes to as much of a normal game atmosphere as possible, which helps the players.
I would also add that in an empty Wilkins Center, my voice sounds better for some reason. I guess it’s kind of like singing in the shower. We all sound like rock stars there, don’t we?
Changing gears, the sports world lost a true legend and gentleman recently with the passing of Hank Aaron, who I still consider to be baseball’s “Home Run King.” I remember vividly that weekend in April of 1974 when Hammerin’ Hank tied Babe Ruth’s career home run record with number 714 against the Reds on a Saturday, which meant a national broadcast on NBC that Monday night. I remember Dodgers pitcher Al Downing serving up number 715, and Braves reliever Tom House catching the ball in the Braves bullpen. I remember the fan that tried to run around the bases with Aaron, and a young Craig Sager trying to interview Hank as he rounded third base.
I also remember the death threats that started in late 1973 when Aaron was on the verge of breaking the record, and how he needed security to protect his family. As a somewhat innocent 14 year-old sports fan, I couldn’t wrap my head around that. The grace under pressure that Hank Aaron displayed throughout the home run chase under the threat of bodily harm is something we can’t even begin to imagine.
It also should be remembered that Hank Aaron was not a one-dimensional player. In addition to the homers, he was also a .305 lifetime hitter, and collected over 37-hundred hits. he fielded his position well, and struck out relatively few times. He was a complete baseball player, and a class act on and off the field.
I’m not a huge fan of asterisks in sports, but the home run record, now held by Barry Bonds, should have one. In the so-called “steroid era” of baseball, we all share some blame. Bulked-up players full of PEDs sent baseballs sailing out of MLB ballparks in record numbers. And we all turned a blind eye, because stadiums were filled and money was being made. After all, “chicks dig the long ball.”
755 is still the number, because Aaron played the game the right way. RIP, Hammerin’ Hank. You are still the Home Run King.
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!