The iconic April 8, 1974 photo was not attributed to any photographer until late last year with the announcement by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum after Sherman contacted them after learning that a large print of his Hank Aaron photo was hanging in the Museum.
Ron Sherman’s Hank Aaron 715 Story
[by Ron Sherman]
As an assignment photographer working in Cleveland, Rochester, Florida, Milwaukee and Syracuse, I relocated to Atlanta, GA in 1971. Over the next four decades my assignments for magazines included Life, Time, Newsweek, Forbes; US News and Business Week and covering personalities like Coretta Scott King, Mayor-Congressman-Ambassador Andrew Young and Governor-President Jimmy Carter. My Corporate clients over the year ranged from IBM, Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, AT&T, and the Southern Co.
On April 8, 1974, on a freelance assignment for United Press International, I was one of more than a hundred photographers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium that night when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record. From my position in the field level photo box along the third base line, I made a series of images as he rounded second base and was joined by a pair of teenagers (Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay). It was one of 544 images I made that night, and, in those pre-digital days, I didn’t know it was special until I saw it in the darkroom after the game. Other photographers had better angles of Aaron’s home run swing, but it was my photograph (sent around the world by UPI) that captures the special celebration of his historical accomplishment.
My name was never attached to that image because when UPI transmitted the photo only my initials were used in the caption. I was not aware that my image was a large print in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum until a friend spotted it on a recent visit.
A couple of days after the Hank Aaron assignment, the photo director at UPI asked me to let the New York office borrow the negative so they could make a large print for their office. Life basically carried on for me after that week and I forgot about the photo. I had prospects to turn into clients and assignments to cover.
The negative stayed in the UPI archives until they sold them some years later to Bettmann Archives and then Corbis Stock Photos. In 2006, I was able to retrieve my negatives from Corbis, after some negotiation.
It was then that I did some research to find any other similar images from that night. My research sent me to the AP, Sports Illustrated, Life, Time, Atlanta Journal/Constitution archives and a similar photo was not found. With at least a hundred photographers or more covering that game, I was surprised, but I kept looking.
Another surprise was not revealed until after the game. There were death threats aimed at Hank Aaron before that game. The stadium was covered by local, state, and federal police, and security. With that information, after the fact, I was surprised the teens made it onto the field. They were arrested and then released with no charges after the game because they meant no harm to Aaron. Some years later, the boys were reunited with Aaron for a photo opportunity.
My photo remained unattributed for these many years because the only name on the photo was UPI, Bettmann Archives, or Corbis. When I recently contacted the Museum’s Photo Archivist, we were able to come to an agreement that will allow the Baseball Hall of Fame to acquire the photo for specific uses, and attribution is now ©Ron Sherman.