One of the most memorable parts of Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run was when two fans — Britt Gaston, left, and Cliff Courtenay — leaped out of the stands and congratulated Aaron as he headed toward home.
Three Emory University baseball players set out to explore the history of the sport's legends last year.
They didn't expect to find a connection between themselves and names like Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks or Pete Rose.
Kyle Arbuckle, Warren Kember and Brett Lake teamed up last year to dig through Emory's collection of Hank Aaaron materials, donated in 2013 by a former scout for the Atlanta Braves. The collection includes scouting reports, contracts and letters Aaron received as he chased Babe Ruth's home run record.
The reports included critiques the Emory juniors have heard about their own play.
"Soft hands." "Can't run." "No chance for power."
Turns out, athletes at every level know the sting of criticism.
Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of Aaron's record-breaking home run. The exhibit the students created using the library materials opens on April 24 at the university's Robert W. Woodruff Library.
The students were the first to look at some of the documents in the collection, said Pellom McDaniels, an assistant professor of African American Studies and curator of African American collections at Emory. It's rare for undergraduates to be as engaged with library collections as the teammates became, especially without getting course credit for the work, McDaniels said.
But they saw themselves in the yellowing paperwork, especially the scouting reports.
Kember got the project started after he attended a lecture series on race in sports culture. He went to McDaniels the next day and asked to look at the collection on Aaron.
"I was just like a kid in the candy store flipping through the scouting reports," Kember, 21, said.
They all were horrified by the negative and occasionally threatening letters that Aaron received.
But the item that stands out most for Arbuckle, 20, and Lake, 21, is a photo taken at the moment Aaron hit his 715th home run. A screen in the outfield reads "Move over Babe."
Arbuckle said he has heard stories of what it was like to play at that time from his godfather, Dusty Baker. But reading the messages to Aaron and looking at the photographs was a reminder of how far the sport has come in 40 years, he said.