October 19 in history:
Two European kingdoms joined to become Spain as the result of a royal wedding on October 19th, 1469. That’s when Ferdinand of Aragon (he was 17) married Isabella of Castile (she was 18).
Napoleon tried to conquer Russia in 1812, but the Russian Army would not surrender. The French leader and his army spent a month in Moscow, but could not get enough supplies to stay for the winter, so they retreated on October 19th, 1812.
Boxer Evander Holyfield became the undisputed world heavyweight champion in October 1990 by knocking out defending champ Buster Douglas. Holyfield was born on this date in 1962.
It’s also the birthday of actor John Lithgow (1945), known for films such as “The World According to Garp” and his TV role as a visitor from another world on “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
October 18 in history:
The tale of a big whale was introduced on this date in 1851, when Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” was published in England.
The U.S. made a big purchase from Russia on October 18th, 1867: Alaska. The Alaska territory was more than half a million acres, about twice as large as Texas. The acquisition arranged by Secretary of State William Seward was derided with nicknames like “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”
Nicknamed after something else big and cold, Chicago Bears rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry became an overnight star during a Monday Night Football game against Green Bay in October 1985. The two head coaches in that contest both celebrated their birthdays that game week, on October 18th: Mike Ditka of the Bears (1939), and Forrest Gregg of the Packers (1933).
Both Gregg and Ditka were still active players in the NFL during the 1970 season, when “Monday Night Football” made its debut. Announcer Keith Jackson, who handled the play-by-play for the Monday night games that first season, was born on this date in 1928.
October 17 in history:
One of the world’s most famous golf tournaments, the British Open, was played for the first time on October 17th, 1860, at a course in Scotland. Contestants had to shoot 36 holes of golf in a single day.
Another world-famous championship, the World Series, was disrupted by an earthquake on this date in 1989. Sixty-three people died in the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco area. Most of those deaths occurred because of the collapse of a two-level viaduct on Interstate 880. As for the World Series, the quake struck 30 minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park. The series was postponed for 10 days because of the quake.
A 12-story metal globe of the world, called the Unisphere, symbolized the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, which closed on this date in ’65. The Unisphere and some other displays at the fair were preserved as local landmarks.
A large globe sits atop the Daily Planet newspaper building in the “Superman” comic books. Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of the Superman character, was born on this day in 1914…on the planet Earth, not Krypton. Two people who have played staff members of the Daily Planet in movies or TV shows were born on October 17th. Margot Kidder (1948) played Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films, and Michael McKean (1947), also known for “Laverne and Shirley” and “This is Spinal Tap,” appeared as Planet editor Perry White on the “Smallville” TV series.
October 16 in history:
“Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine…” That line from the musical “Damn Yankees” refers to France’s Marie Antoinette meeting her fate on this date in 1793. The queen was beheaded nine months after her husband, King Louis XVI.
The American colonies effectively cut themselves off from the King of England by winning the Revolutionary War. On October 16th, 1783, Army commander George Washington captured Yorktown, Virginia, in the final battle of the war.
The English once beheaded their own king, Charles I, in the 1600s and tried life without royalty for a few years. It didn’t stick, and the royal family returned during the Restoration. A popular novel about the Restoration, “Forever Amber,” was a best seller in the 1940s. “Amber” author Kathleen Winsor, born in 1919, shared an October 16th birthday with the actress who played the lead in the movie version of the novel, Linda Darnell (1923).
October 15 in history:
The submarine “H.L. Hunley,” the first sub to sink a ship, sank during a test run on this date in 1863. The man whose name was on the sub, Horace Hunley, was one of eight people aboard who died in the accident. The Hunley was brought back to the surface, but sank again a short time later. It stayed underwater until 2000.
The “Graf Zeppelin” airship completed its first flight across the Atlantic from Europe on October 15th, 1928, passing over several large American cities before landing in New Jersey.
The New York Municipal Airport was dedicated on this date in 1939. Years later, it was renamed for the man who was mayor of New York when it opened: Fiorello La Guardia.
A New York apartment on East 68th St. was the main setting for a TV comedy that premiered on October 15th, 1951, on CBS. Living in the apartment were a Cuban bandleader and his trouble-prone wife, played by real-life couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. “I Love Lucy” was one of the top-rated shows on TV during its original six-year run, and has been popular in reruns ever since.
Another television hit about a wacky pair, set in the 1950s, was “Laverne & Shirley.” Penny Marshall, who played Laverne De Fazio, was born on this day in 1943. After the TV series ended, Marshall became a movie director, making popular films including “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”
October 14 in history:
King Harold II of England was killed by Norman invaders during the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, 1066. Harold was the first English king to die in battle.
On this date in 1981, the Egyptian government elected Hosni Mubarak as president, to succeed Anwar Sadat, who had been shot and killed a week earlier. Mubarak remained president until being ousted as a result of protests in 2011.
Former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt was shot and slightly wounded in Milwaukee on October 14th, 1912, while campaigning as the Bull Moose candidate for president. The bullet was slowed down by a folded copy of his speech in his coat pocket, and Roosevelt finished his speech before going to a hospital.
That week in 1912, the Army football team was 2-0 and preparing for a game against Yale. One of the star players for the cadets was halfback and future president Dwight Eisenhower, born on October 14th, 1890.
October 13 in history:
On October 13th, 1884, Greenwich Mean Time was established, setting noon at the Greenwich observatory in England as the standard for time zones throughout the world. However, scientists say that doesn’t mean the sun is always directly overhead at 12 noon every day at Greenwich.
Many witnesses say the sun did unusual things over the town of Fatima, Portugal on October 13th, 1917, in what has been described as “The Miracle of the Sun.” As many as 100,000 people gathered in Fatima, expecting visions of the Virgin Mary. Watchers claimed the sun changed colors, spun around, and moved back and forth across the sky, seeming to speed toward the earth.
The rescue of 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine was considered a miracle by many. The miners at Copiapo had been underground for nearly 70 days when a rescue capsule was used to bring them back to the surface, one at a time. The successful rescue mission ended late in the day on October 13th, 2010.
The man who created the TV show “Mission: Impossible,” producer Bruce Geller, was born on this date in 1930. It’s also the birthday of TV producer Chris Carter (born 1957), best known for a series about two agents who investigated the seemingly impossible, or unexplainable: “The X-Files.”