Two score and seven years ago, the great Hank Aaron delivered one of the most iconic moments American sports and baseball history. Aaron clobbered his 715th career home run as a member of the Atlanta Braves and passed Babe Ruth to become baseball’s all-time home run king.
For fans of Major League Baseball in the 1970s, Henry Aaron’s superhero-like home run did a lot of things. It made him the clear-cut greatest power hitter ever. Unfortunately, it also infuriated some people so much that Aaron received hate mail and death threats as a Black man approaching Babe Ruth‘s home run record.
That was back on April 8, 1974. Back when baseball records and the prestigious “home run king” title weren’t tainted or controversial (you can thank Barry Bonds for that). Back when fans could rush the field and not get banned from a stadium or deported from the country.
One of the great memories from Aaron’s 715th blast were the two teenagers who rushed the field and ran the bases with him in celebration. It’s been 47 years since the two kids patted Hank on the back, but what ever happened to them?
Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run
The kid from Mobile, Alabama walloped a fourth-inning offering from Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing over the left-field wall at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and sent the baseball world into celebration.
?He?s sitting on 714,? Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton said before Aaron’s historic swing. ?Here?s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. Here?s a drive into left center field. That ball is gonna be ? outta here! It?s gone! It?s 715! There?s a new home run champion of all time, and it?s Henry Aaron.?
Dodgers announcer Vin Scully delivered a terrific call as well:
“It?s a high drive into deep left center field. (Bill) Buckner goes back to the fence. It is gone,” he said.
“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate, not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother.”
Fireworks exploded. Teammates gathered around home plate awaiting the Braves slugger. As Aaron rounded second base, two teenagers caught up to him and ran the bases with him.
Those two kids were 17-year-olds Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay. They didn’t run much farther after that short sprint. According to ESPN, officers apprehended Courtenay before he could hop the railing, and Gaston made it 10 rows up a section before realizing he couldn’t go anywhere. Gaston’s father bailed them both out of jail after spending a few hours in the slammer. The charges against them were dropped.
“It was more a celebration of the moment. That was such a big deal. It was nothing malicious at all,” Courtenay told ESPN. “Fortunately, Hank saw it that way, too.”
What Happened To The Fans?
Aaron, Gaston and Courtenay all met up multiple times since that glorious day in 1974.
In 2010, they reunited and Aaron still had love for them despite their field-rushing antics. That was the first time he’d seen the two men since 1994, when they got together for the 20th anniversary of No. 715.
“It’s wonderful to see them,” Aaron told ESPN in 2010. “I often get asked, ‘Whatever happened to those two guys?’ It’s nice to see them once again and know they’re doing fine, doing well.”
“The older you get, the more you think about it. I’m just glad things worked out the way they did. It could have been a lot worse. They were having fun with it as kids. They didn’t get beat up and all that. I think they spent two or three hours in jail. Other than that, it was a happy moment.”
Cliff Courtenay attended the University of Georgia and became an optometrist in Valdosta, Georgia. Now in his 60s, Dr. Courtenay retired from his practice in 2017 and plans on spending retirement traveling with his wife.
Charles Brittian “Britt” Gaston went to graduate from the University of Georgia as well. He then lived in Waycross, Georgia and South Carolina, where he owned a company called Regional Graphics. Sadly, he passed away from an extended illness at 55 in 2011.
Of course, Hank Aaron also passed away at 86 in January 2021.
Hammerin’ Hank will always be a legend. The Hall of Famer, 25-time All-Star and 1957 National League MVP slugged 755 home runs over his memorable career with the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.
No. 715 will forever be an iconic moment in MLB history, and the fact that he shared it with two fans and later reunited with them made it all the more better.