Brewers pinpoint Aaron's final homer
University of Wisconsin crew calculates where ball landed
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers had the game safely in hand against the California Angels by the time Hank Aaron walked to the plate in the seventh inning of a July 20, 1976, contest.
Aaron stroked a two-out solo home run off Angels reliever Dick Drago that hooked just inside the left-field foul pole in County Stadium. Aaron circled the bases just like he had countless other times, and nobody from the Brewers' ground crew bothered to return the ball to him.
After all, Aaron had hit 754 other balls out of the park in his illustrious career, many of them much more memorable than that one.
"I just don't remember the incident, who was on base, or whether anybody was on base," Aaron said. "When you get to the end [of your career], you never know when this is going to be the last one."
That shot off Drago turned out to be it. The Brewers made up for a lack of fanfare on that summer night in 1976 by going to great lengths this year to commemorate Aaron's final home run.
The club recruited a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering professor and his students to work for months identifying the precise spot where No. 755 landed. The Brewers then unveiled a plaque marking the spot in a ceremony Thursday afternoon that was attended by the Home Run King himself.
"I never dreamt that I would ever come back here after 30-something years and find the spot that the home run landed," Aaron said, beaming. "This is truly a surprise, and I am so pleased."
Rick Schlesinger, Brewers executive vice president of business operations, hosted the event and presented Aaron with a replica of the commemorative plaque after the ceremony. Dr. Alan Horowitz, the UWM professor, also attended the event.
"Hank Aaron is obviously not only the owner of the most illustrious record in Major League Baseball, but his contributions to the game are without measure and frankly need no explanations," Schlesinger said. "It's really a privilege to have him here."
Horowitz and his team of UWM seniors -- Wisconsin natives Colin Casey, Alex Cowan and Michael DeBoer -- studied footage of Aaron's home run and compared the footage to County Stadium plans using high-precision Global Positioning System equipment.
The video footage revealed that the baseball landed in the stadium's left-field grandstands, having traveled 363 feet from home plate before anybody touched it. The team announced in April that it had identified the spot where the home run landed, or rather, the spot on the ground directly below where the fan caught the ball. The group pinpointed a location in a parking lot just beyond the left-field wall of Helfaer Field, a youth baseball facility constructed where County Stadium once stood.
The Brewers then built the commemorative plaque right into the surface of the ground on the spot in Brewers Lot 1.
"To be very honest with you, I've never heard of anything like this," Aaron said. "Looking at this structure, I think I can dream of some of the things that happened here in these surroundings. I know we had a championship, at least one championship, and we were involved in two World Series in this complex."
Aaron played with the Milwaukee Braves from 1954-65, before leaving with the team to Atlanta for the next nine seasons. Then-Brewers owner Bud Selig then brought Aaron back to Milwaukee for his final two seasons, when he hit 12 home runs in 1975 and 10 in 1976.
Baseball's all-time leader in home runs, extra-base hits and RBIs, Aaron also won the National League MVP award in 1957, when the Braves won Milwaukee's only World Series. The slugging outfielder was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Aaron admitted he didn't have a very good season in 1976, but he just felt glad he hit his final home run at County Stadium.
"I don't think, if it had been hit on the road, that there'd be a plaque somewhere," he said. "It's always a pleasure to be back here in Milwaukee."
Aaron, as usual, refused to discuss Giants slugger Barry Bonds' chase of his home run record. Bonds stood at 746 homers entering the day, nine shy of tying Aaron's mark, and the Brewers will host San Francisco in a three-game series at Miller Park beginning June 18.
Aaron has repeated for months that he would not be present when Bonds broke his long-standing record, one of the most hallowed in baseball history.
"I don't have any thoughts about Barry Bonds," Aaron said Thursday. "I don't even know how to spell his name."
Former Brewers shortstop Johnny Logan, Aaron's teammate on the Milwaukee Braves for 11 years, recently discussed what Aaron's numbers would have looked like if he had played his entire career in a domed stadium like Miller Park.
The Braves played in some brutal April weather. Without having to endure the chilly winds, rain and snow, Aaron would have piled up another 200 home runs, Logan said.
But Aaron refused to speculate about any what-ifs.
"I don't want to guess about that," he said, smiling. "I had a nice career, so I'm satisfied."
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.