Friday, April 4, 2014

APRIL 4 = M.L.King, Henry Aaron; Tragedy&Triumph

"We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has it's place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

These were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his final sermon delivered on April 3, 1968 in Nashville, Tennessee. Less than 24 hours later, on this date - April 4 - 50 years ago -Dr. King was standing on the balcony of his second-story room at the Motel Lorraine in Memphis, Tennessee, just after 6:00 p.m. when a shot rang out, striking him in the jaw, and severing his spinal cord. He was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old. James Earl Ray, an escapee from a Missouri prison the previous year was later apprehended in London by Scotland Yard, returned to the United States and convicted of the crime. The conviction remains controversial to this day, with many, including some members of the late Dr. King's family believing that Ray had been the fall-guy for a larger conspiracy, as Ray himself would claim. Nevertheless, subsequent investigations over the years by Tennessee, U.S. Congressional, and U.S. Justice Department authorities each concluded that Ray was guilty. Ray himself died in 1998.

Henry Aaron Ties Babe Ruth's Home Run Record

"The sheer majesty of this occasion and it's significance overwhelms me. For truly I reflect on my life and my 23 years in baseball. I am reminded of a statement I once read, and I quote, 'The way to fame is like the way to heaven. Through much tribulation.' It had been for me, to quote a very popular song, the long and winding road. Nevertheless, I have been extremely blessed."

- Henry Aaron at his induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame on August 1, 1982.

On this date in 1974, Henry Aaron tied Babe Ruth's career home run record by hitting his 714'th career home run. It was 2:40 p.m. that afternoon on which the Atlanta Braves faced the Cincinnati Reds for the National League Opening Day game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. Aaron came to the plate to face the Reds right handed pitcher Jack Billingham. Aaron was ahead in the count 3-1 when Billingham threw him a fastball. Aaron connected on the pitch and sent it flying over the left field wall. This writer was in fact present for the event, but I was only 13 years old at the time, so there are only a few things I can truly remember. I can't honestly claim to remember seeing Aaron's swing, but I can clearly remember looking down to to my right and seeing Aaron's home run ball fly over the left field home run wall, and bounce around in the area behind it. And I can remember the Riverfront Stadium crowd, including myself and then Vice President Gerald Ford fully appreciating the historical significance of the event, and jumping to our feet to give Aaron an extended standing ovation. Aaron broke the record with his 715'th homer on April 8 before his home crowd in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.

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