"I just hope no one (has) to go through what I went through," Aaron said during the 2002 season. "It was inhuman and uncalled for. Every single day I was confronted with it, whether it was the letters I received or the newspaper articles guys wrote."
On the day Aaron hit his record-setting 715th homer, The Braves entertained a celebrity-filled crowd that included Sammy Davis Jr., and then-Georgia governor Jimmy Carter. Pearl Bailey sang the national anthem.
The moment was so big that even the opposing pitcher had to be prepped.
"There was a script," said Al Downing, the Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher that night. "Basically, what I'd been informed of was that when Hank finished rounding the bases, I was to step aside. There was going to be a ceremony, a few speeches, then the game would resume."
Of course, Downing had no intention of surrendering the milestone long ball when he took the mound that night. But he, like the rest of the 53,775 in the seats that night, wasn't shocked when Aaron snapped his powerful wrists at 9:07 p.m. (ET) and exploded on Downing's fastball with no outs in the fourth inning.
Aaron on hitting 715
All these years later, Aaron discusses No. 715 infrequently. Those close to Aaron (who retired with 755 homers) say the scars of the chase have become less prominent. But whether he truly feels at peace with his memories is another question entirely.
"He's not the type of guy who wants to relive it," Baker said. "He's a private man, very community conscious, and he doesn't want the notoriety. That time of his life was probably hell for him. He's proud of that record, but no man should have to go through what Hank did. No man."