Sports Events History

FIFTY YEARS AGO: Celebrating the Greatest Achievement of Eau Claire’s Favorite Baseball Hero

April 8 event in Eau Claire honors Hank Aaron’s home run record

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

In the Chippewa Valley, 715 is a significant number, and not just because it’s the telephone area code: It’s also the number of home runs that Eau Claire’s favorite baseball alumnus – Hank Aaron – needed in order to break Babe Ruth’s all-time major league record.

Hammerin’ Hank hit his 715th homer on April 8, 1975 – exactly 50 years ago today. 23 years earlier, Aaron had played a single season for the Eau Claire Bears, then a minor league farm team for the Boston Braves. Soon the Braves – and Aaron himself – would be achieving greatness in Milwaukee, but in 1952 he was a soft-spoken 18-year-old Black man in a mostly white city in northwestern Wisconsin. And yet the city embraced Aaron, and vice versa, and today a statue of the young ballplayer greets visitors to the historic baseball stadium in Eau Claire’s Carson Park.

When that statue was dedicated in 1994, Aaron was greeted by a crowd of 5,000 in the park. “I had goosebumps,” he later told Eau Claire writer Jerry Poling, author of A Summer Up North. “It was a blessed day for me. A lot of things happened to me in my 23 years as a ballplayer, but nothing touched me more than that day in Eau Claire.”

Outside of Eau Claire, of course, the memory that gives fans goosebumps is the sight of Aaron hitting home run number 715 on April 8, 1974, in front of a sellout crowd at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Aaron eventually ended his career with 755 major league home runs – a record that stood for more than 30 years (and was only broken under a cloud of steroid abuse allegations).

Baseball lovers will celebrate Aaron’s achievement from 6-9pm Monday, April 8, with a party at For the Hobby Sports Cards, 1721 Birch St., Eau Claire. Fans will swap stories about Hank, will be able to see every Topps Hank Aaron card from 1954 to 1976, and will enjoy free hot dogs, popcorn, soda, and ice cream.

Meanwhile, an artifact of Aaron’s time in Eau Claire is now part of an exhibit in Atlanta celebrating his career. A 1952 Eau Claire Bears jersey, which belongs to the Eau Claire Baseball History Committee, has been loaned to the Atlanta History Center for its new exhibit, “More Than Brave: The Life of Henry Aaron.” (Learn more about the exhibit here.)

This 1952 Eau Claire Bears jersey is part of the collection of Eau Claire Baseball Committee
This 1952 Eau Claire Bears jersey is part of the collection of Eau Claire Baseball Committee. It was recently loaned to a museum in Atlanta for an exhibit on Hank Aaron's career. The jersey originally belonged to one of Aaron's Eau Claire teammates, Ken Reitmeier.