(USATODAY) — Hank Aaron’s march to history ended 40 years ago today, when his 715th home run vaulted him past Ruth as baseball’s all-time home run leader. Yet it was an often joyless and lonely pursuit, and Aaron says he has good reason to hang onto the cruel correspondence.

“To remind myself,” Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, “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.

“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.

“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.”

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