MLB Tonight live show. Via MLB Network.

No sport honors significant moments and people better. Major League Baseball has always excelled in connecting its past to its present. Get ready for a special treat when the Atlanta Braves celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run.

MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds will co-host MLB Tonight live from Atlanta’s Truist Park on Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The show will include special guests and features connected to the event. After the ceremonies, MLB Network will broadcast the Braves’ game against the New York Mets.

When Aaron hit his landmark homer off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, 1974, it felt like the equivalent of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. He set a record that no one thought would ever be broken. The achievement had a huge cultural impact at a time when baseball was America’s most popular sport.

Five decades later, much has changed. But the man and his home run are a consequential part of baseball’s history and the nation.

“It’s the M.O. of MLB Network to blow out the big moments in baseball,” Amsinger told Awful Announcing. “For Harold and I, it takes a big deal for us to leave the studio during the season. We’re out for the combine, for the draft, for the All-Star Game, for the World Series. For us to get on the road and go to Atlanta, it’s a reflection of how important this day is, not just for Atlanta, but for all of Major League Baseball.”

Aaron became an iconic figure not just because he surpassed Babe Ruth’s record but for what he endured during the chase. It was a turbulent time in America, and a Black man breaking this mark was not universally applauded. Aaron not only received hate mail but suffered through death threats and a plot to kidnap his daughter.

How Aaron responded, makes his feat even more remarkable. Aaron remains not only a baseball icon but a civil rights icon.

“What 715 meant for this country is really what baseball is all about,” Reynolds said. “It speaks for what our country is about with diversity and everything else. For Hank Aaron to break that record, and for what it meant culturally for this country, (it was) more than just passing Babe Ruth. It was (breaking) the color barrier. He wasn’t that far behind Jackie Robinson. All those moments are so big for the sport and the country.”

Aaron passed away in January 2021. When he died, the New York Times obituary described Aaron as “routinely brilliant, performing with seemingly effortless grace, but he had little flash, notwithstanding his nickname in the sports pages, Hammerin’ Hank. He long felt that he had not been accorded the recognition he deserved.”

Aaron, whose record was eclipsed by Barry Bonds in August 2007 and finished his career with 762 homers, remained a major baseball presence until his passing. He had a front-office role with the Braves. The Hank Aaron Award is given to each league’s best offensive performer. It was first given out in 1999 to mark the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Ruth’s mark.

“Hank was such a unique figure,” Reynolds said. “He connected today’s players with yesterday’s players because he was around so much. And with the Hank Aaron Award, he touched David Ortiz just like he did Bryce Harper. They got to know him, see him, talk with him.”

While today’s baseball players know about Aaron, a refresher can educate young viewers.

“No sport has the history that baseball has,” Amsinger said. “We’re proud of it, and our leaders at the network do a great job of pointing out why it’s important to our audience. That’s what we’re going to do on Monday.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.