714. Everybody knew the number. You didn’t have to be a baseball fan to be able to recite the number 714 as the career home run total for Babe Ruth. The number mocked all those who had hit more than nine dozen homers in their career. How could any mere mortal hit 714 home runs in his career.

Then, one day, a guy named Hammerin’ Hank knocked one over the wall to hit number 715. The new home run king was Henry Aaron. That happened 40 years ago this past week. I remember being a middle schooler watching the TV coverage and realizing I was watching history. It was a time most everybody celebrated together. (Well, except for some ignorant racists.) April 8, 1974. We may not remember the exact date, but we remember what happened and watching history.

I remember five years prior to number 715. On July 20, 1969 we heard that the Eagle had landed and soon there were two men walking around on the surface of the moon. We all celebrated together. (Well, except for a few Russians.) The moon had been conquered, and we marveled that the challenge had been answered. We remember what happened and the fact that we watched history.

In both instances there were huge celebrations of amazing accomplishments. But I’ve been alive since 1961, and I can’t seem to think of any other occasions like that. Don’t get me wrong. I can think of plenty of those historic moments — monuments in time. You know, the occasions when everyone remembers where they were. The explosion of the Challenger, Columbine, 9/11, and other such events are tragedies, not celebrations. Others that I considered were the freeing of the hostages in Iran in 1980, the end of World War II, and even the capture/death of Osama bin Laden. While all these were celebrations the celebrations we for the end of something bad, not simply for something good.

There are private or celebrations for part of the population, but a (mostly) universal happy memorable day is rare. Personally, I celebrated the Bears Super Bowl victory in early 1986, but I don’t think New England fans were thrilled about that. Most things sports-related are like that. But Hammerin’ Hank taking an Al Downing pitch over the wall started a real celebration. It is true that there were anti-Hank Aaron folks who didn’t like the color of his skin or just wanted Babe Ruth to hold the record forever, but I would call those people insignificant or just plain ignorant. There were probably a few people who didn’t want any footprints on the moon too.

I suppose the point of all this is that we seem to remember tragedy better than we remember joy. I suppose that makes sense since it seems we like to complain more than we appreciate what we have. It’s a natural condition. People are quick to complain about their hometown and very slow to appreciate the positive. We can enviously obsess over the neighbor’s new car rather than be thankful for our own set of wheels.

I’ve known a person who got free concert tickets as a gift then openly complained that the seats weren’t on the level he wanted. And if you think, you probably know someone who would complain that the gift of a new car wasn’t the right color. We should appreciate and celebrate the good, especially that good which affects us all.

Forty years ago, a baseball traveled over the left field wall and the crowd that had come anticipating a celebration followed through. They celebrated the accomplishment of a 40-year-old man who began a baseball career in the Negro Leagues and who had finally beaten the record many thought would never be broken. He had endured harassment and death threats from racist bigots in addition to the pressure of chasing the legacy of Babe Ruth. Why wouldn’t you celebrate a man like that?

There are stories of other heroes today. Servicemen, cancer survivors, businessmen, philanthropists… people from all walks of life. This weekend why don’t we all forget our complaints and the bad things that we obsess about, and instead find a reason to celebrate. Then celebrate. Be joyful.