April 8th is a day in Major League Baseball history that will live in infamy.
Two historic feats happened on the same day, just one year apart, and both were not only historic in the context of baseball history, but in African American history, as well.
Aaron hit home run No. 715.
Downing said prior to the game, “I will pitch to Aaron no differently tonight. I’ll mix my pitches up, move the locations.”
Maybe Downing should’ve pitched differently. The Dodgers’ pitcher walked Aaron in the second inning before serving up a fastball to Aaron in the fourth that he cleared the fence with.
Aaron went on to hit 40 more home runs, but maybe other than his last one – No. 755 -, none of his other home runs are more historic or talked about, and certainly no other long ball took more weight off his shoulders.
When Aaron got to home plate and received the microphone to express his joy throughout the whole stadium, his first words were, “I just thank God it’s all over.”
The best home run hitter in MLB History, happy at what he had accomplished, but even happier that the journey there was over.
Aaron could relax.
“Hammerin’” Hank retired two seasons later and 40 home runs after that historic bomb as the all-time home run leader.
Exactly one year after Aaron made history, another power hitter made history of his own.
Frank Robinson, who hit 586 round trippers in his own right, good enough for ninth-place on the all-time home run list, put on his Cleveland Indians uniform in the way he had done the entire season before.
However, on April 8th, 1975, he not only played in the Indians’ game against the New York Yankees, he also managed the game, as well.
When Cleveland pitcher Gaylord Perry threw the first game, Robinson officially became the first African American to manage a Major League Baseball team.
Robinson, who won the Most Valuable Player Award in 1961 with the Cincinnati Reds and then again in 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles making him the only player to win the MVP Award in both leagues, as well as being named World Series MVP in ’66, said about being the first African American manager, “Of all the pennants, World Series, awards and All-Star games I’ve been in, this is the greatest thrill.”
The Indians won that game 40 year’s ago 5-3. Robinson, who was the Designated Hitter, batted 1-for-3 with a home run.
Since Robinson, multiple African Americans, such as Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes, Lloyd McClendon, and Ron Washington, have managed big league ball clubs, and many others have been coaches at the Major League, as well.
Sadly, though, 40 years later, and there is currently the same number of African American managers in the MLB as there were in 1975.