It was the biggest stage a ballplayer could ever dream of. Think about it. You think about that first catch with Dad. You think about your first little league games, and savoring ice cream cones after big victories. Little league fades away, and suddenly the games have a deeper meaning. You're in high school and college, and people start to watch you. You don't know if you're good enough, but you give your all regardless. You are good enough, and you move up in the ranks. You're in a major league organization, and you have a long way to climb. But you're still hopeful that one day they will give you a shot. In time, they do. And for the next two decades, you soak in the limelight. You're an All Star, a World Series champion, and a hero. Everybody knows your name.
But no moment could replace this one right here. Just after that sweet crack of the bat, you were prepared for the trip of your lifetime. Time stood still as you rounded the bases, much like this very photograph. History was made.
Some weren't prepared for this image. America was in a different frame of mind than it is now, and some didn't feel like an African American man deserved to be the Home Run King. They would have rather not seen Henry Aaron unseat the Great Bambino, the embodiment of America's Pastime.
But the days of "hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack" were long over. More was at stake than ever before. And the most beautiful part of it all was that in this moment, despite what you had to overcome to be in this position, all of the agony was gone. Nobody cared about the color of your skin. They were just in awe of the greatest ballplayer they ever saw.
This photograph of Hank Aaron's famous record breaking home run speaks volumes to its importance. The photographer captured thousands of fans anticipating the result of the play, almost as if they were gasping for air. You cannot make out their expressions because they are so far away, but that's the beauty of the picture. Everyone had an opinion about Aaron passing Ruth. Racism was far from eliminated in the United States, and it didn't help that he played for a southern team (the Atlanta Braves). Hank received death threats just for simply playing the game at an exceptional level. People weren't prepared to watch him dethrone Babe Ruth. This photograph captures Ruth's final second as the leader of that category.
Statistics are crucial to baseball, and although Aaron has since been unseated by Barry Bonds, many still view his record as the true one. Had Bonds not allegedly taken steroids to bolster his already astronomical numbers, this photo wouldn't bear the same meaning that it does today. The lighting casts over Aaron like he's a comic book superhero popping out of the image and coming to life. It's a dark setting in Atlanta, which allows the stadium lights to have such a prominence in the landscape of the event. It may sound cliché, but one could say the way the photo was shot is symbolic of Aaron defeating his adversity and rising out of the darkness to the top of the record books.
You cannot understand this picture's significance unless you know its background context, which makes it an informational style photo. However, baseball is more than just numbers on a stat sheet, and its emotional component tied with its historical context is the reason why I, and so many others have fallen in love with this sport.