40 years after record-breaking homer, Hank Aaron says fans' support 'means an awful lot to me'

The Associated Press

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2014 file photo, baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron waves during a reception in his honor in Washington. The 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's 715th home run finds the Hall of Famer, now 80, coping with his recovery from hip surgery. The anniversary of his famous homer on April 8, 1974 will be celebrated before the Braves' home opener against the Mets on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

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"I still feel so fortunate to have seen it on TV," said Pendleton, the Braves' first-base coach and the NL MVP with Atlanta in 1991. "What a thrill and it meant so much to black kids like me hoping to play baseball. I still am amazed every time I get to talk to Hank. ... I don't think players today understand what he went through and what it all meant to people back then."

For Aaron, the home-run record was not his greatest achievement. He takes the most pride in holding the record with 2,297 RBIs and never having 100 strikeouts in a season.

"There was absolutely no time that anybody could say, 'well he hit a lot of home runs but he struck out a lot of times,'" Aaron said. "That was not to be. That was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, to go to the plate and strike out once or twice and not be able to make contact."

Aaron joked he long ago learned he no longer can swing a bat or throw a ball very far. But he said he'll cherish the memories with friends during the anniversary celebration.

"I'm going to enjoy myself as much as I can," he said.

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco and AP freelance writer Guy Curtright in Kissimmee, Fla., contributed to this report.

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