(Editor’s note: In this guest post, Atlanta photographer, Ron Sherman, recounts his Baseball Hall of Fame photo of Hank Aaron rounding the bases after hitting home run number 715 breaking Babe Ruth’s long-standing record.)
The record breaker and friends
On April 8, 1974, on a freelance assignment for United Press International, I was one of more than a hundred photographers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. That night Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record. My position in the field level photo box was along the third base line. I made a series of images as he rounded second base. Unexpectedly, Aaron was joined in his run toward third by a pair of jubilant teenagers (Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay). It was one of 544 images I made that night. I didn’t know it was special until I saw it in the darkroom after the game. Other photographers had a better angle of Aaron’s home run swing, but it was my photograph (sent around the world by UPI) that captures the special celebration of his historic accomplishment.
The traveling negative
A couple of days after the Hank Aaron assignment, the photo director at UPI (United Press International) asked me to let the New York office borrow the negative so they could make a large print for their office. I sent it along. My life basically carried on for me after that week and I forgot about the photo. After all, there were prospects to turn into clients and assignments to cover.
The negative stayed in the UPI archives until they sold them some years later to Bettmann Archives and then to Corbis Stock Photos. In 2006, I was able to retrieve my negatives from Corbis, after some negotiation.
It was then that I did some research to find any other similar images from that night. My research sent me to the AP (Associated Press), Sports Illustrated, Life, Time, the Atlanta Journal/Constitution archives and a similar photo was not to be found. With at least a hundred photographers or more covering that game, I was surprised. That I was the only one to make this photo.
Another surprise surfaced after the game ended. There had been death threats aimed at Hank Aaron before that game. Security at the stadium included local, state, and federal police, and stadium security. I was surprised when I found about the intensity of the security that the teens had ever made it onto the field. They were arrested and then released with no charges after the game because they meant no harm to Aaron. Some years later, the boys were reunited with Aaron for a photo opportunity.
My name was never attached to that image because when UPI transmitted the photo only my initials were used in the caption. I was not aware that my image was also a large print in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum until a friend spotted it on a visit.
My photo has remained unattributed for these many years because the only name on the photo was either UPI, Bettmann Archives, or Corbis. Recently, I contacted the Museum’s Photo Archivist. We came to an agreement that allows the Baseball Hall of Fame to acquire the photo for specific uses with the attribution that reads: ©Ron Sherman.
Ron Sherman, assignment photographer working in Cleveland, Rochester, Florida, Milwaukee and Syracuse relocated to Atlanta, GA in 1971. Over the next four decades, his assignments for magazines included Life, Time, Newsweek, Forbes; US News and Business Week and covering personalities like Coretta Scott King, Mayor-Congressman-Ambassador Andrew Young and Governor-President Jimmy Carter. Corporate clients ranged from IBM, Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, AT&T, and the Southern Companies. See more of Ron’s work at RonSherman.com.