- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baseball legend Hank Aaron, 80, acknowledged race relations have changed since his threat-filled days chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record — but said modern tormenters still exist wearing suits and ties instead of KKK hoods.

“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated,” Mr. Aaron told USA Today.

He went on, expressing both the good and bad of where race relations in the United States now stand: “We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country.

“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts,” he said.

Mr. Aaron made the statement in context of reading through a letter he received decades ago, as he neared his 715th home run and the record set by Mr. Ruth.

FILE - In this April 8, 1974 file photo, Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron eyes the flight of the ball after hitting his 715th career homer in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta. The 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's 715th home run finds the Hall of Famer, now 80, coping with his recovery from hip surgery. The anniversary of his famous homer on April 8, 1974 will be celebrated before the Braves' home opener against the Mets on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Harry Harrris, File)
FILE - In this April 8, 1974 file photo, Atlanta Braves’ Hank ... more >

The letter stated: “You are (not) going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move.”

Mr. Aaron toldUSA Today he saved such letters “to remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”

Mr. Aaron said just look to the baseball fields nowadays for proof.

“When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” he said, USA Today reported. “Now you don’t have any. (7.7 percent of big-leaguers last season). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”