October 8 in history:
Famous fires broke out on the shores of Lake Michigan on October 8th, 1871. The deadliest of those fires occurred in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, along Green Bay. As many as 2500 people may have died in the forest fire that destroyed Peshtigo and other communities. The better-known fire of October 8th was the Great Chicago Fire, which claimed about 300 lives and destroyed four square miles of the city.
Minister and political activist Jesse Jackson, the founder of Operation PUSH in Chicago, was born October 8th of 1941. Jackson shares a birthday with comedian Darrell Hammond (1955), who impersonated him and dozens of other celebrities during a 14-year run on “Saturday Night Live.” Hammond occasionally imitated SNL announcer Don Pardo on the show, and in 2014, was hired to succeed the late Pardo as the program’s new announcer.
Chevy Chase played President Gerald Ford in sketches during the first two seasons of SNL. Chase, born October 8th, 1943, went on to play Clark Griswold in the “Vacation” movie series, and returned to TV as a cast member of “Community.” He co-starred in “Deal of the Century” with Sigourney Weaver, born this day in 1949. Weaver played Ripley in the “Alien” movies, and appeared in “Avatar” and “Ghostbusters.”
Live from New York, baseball fans saw and heard history being made on October 8th, 1956, when Game 5 of the World Series was broadcast from Yankee Stadium. Don Larsen of the Yankees became the first man to pitch a perfect game during a World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0.
October 5 in history:
The city of Anaheim, California, was founded in 1857. It would become the site of Disneyland, and the home of the Angels baseball team, which won the World Series in 2002.
Another nearby franchise, the San Diego Padres, has played in the World Series twice without winning. The first time was 1984, the same year Padres owner Ray Kroc died. Kroc, who earned a fortune after buying the McDonald’s hamburger business from brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald, was born October 5th, 1902.
Another popular comedy team made its debut on October 5th, 1969, when the first episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was aired on the BBC.
John Cleese of “Monty Python” has appeared as spy gadget expert Q (or R) in two James Bond films. The very first 007 film, “Dr. No,” premiered in London on October 5th, 1962. This is also the birthday of Donald Pleasence (born 1919), who played the villain Blofeld in “You Only Live Twice”…used as an inspiration for Dr. Evil in the “Austin Powers” spy comedies.
September 29 in history:
Pope John Paul, formerly Cardinal Albino Luciani, died on September 29th, 1978, only 34 days after being elected. John Paul was immensely popular during his short reign as pope, prompting his successor, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, to choose the name John Paul II.
Construction on the Washington National Cathedral began on September 29th, 1907.
On that same day, “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry was born. Autry was famous for his movies and Christmas recordings, and later in life as the founder of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.
September 29th was the last day of the regular baseball season in 1957, and two franchises played — and lost — their last games as New York teams on that day before moving to California. The Giants, headed to San Francisco, lost their last home game at the Polo Grounds to Pittsburgh, and the Brooklyn Dodgers were beaten in Philadelphia in their final game before moving to Los Angeles.
A Martian had to settle in Los Angeles after his spaceship crashed, on the sitcom “My Favorite Martian,” which debuted September 29th, 1963 on CBS. Ray Walston was billed as “The Martian,” but he was called “Martin O’Hara” and “Uncle Martin” while living with a newspaper reporter played by Bill Bixby.
Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space” played the voice of Uncle Martin in a 1970s cartoon show based on “Martian.” On this night in 1963, the same Sunday night that “Martian” premiered, Harris appeared on NBC’s “Bonanza” as author Charles Dickens, visiting the Ponderosa. Harris was a regular cast member on another NBC series that aired that night, “The Bill Dana Show,” in which Dana’s popular character Jose Jimenez worked as a hotel bellhop.
July 16th in history:
Yankees slugger Joe di Maggio got three hits in four times at bat against the Cleveland Indians on July 16th, 1941, extending his record hitting streak to 56 games. The streak would end the next day in Cleveland.
Ohio native Neil Armstrong would become the first man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft when it lifted off in a ball of fire from the Kennedy Space Center on this day in 1969.
The comedy “Ball of Fire” earned an Oscar nomination for Barbara Stanwyck, as did “Stella Dallas” and “Double Indemnity.” Stanwyck helped sell a lot of popcorn during a 60-year career in movies and TV. She was born on July 16th, 1907 — the same day and year as another person in the popcorn business, “gourmet popcorn” grower, Orville Redenbacher.
One of Barbara Stanwyck’s later movies was called “Jeopardy.” Will Ferrell played Alex Trebek in several “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketches during a seven-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” before starring in movies such as “Elf” and the “Anchorman” comedies. Ferrell, born on this day in 1967, performed with the Groundlings comedy group in Los Angeles, as did Sherri Stoner, born July 16th, 1965. Stoner has written movies and cartoon series, provided the voice of Slappy Squirrel on “Animaniacs,” and was a body model for Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”
May 5th in history:
Carnegie Hall in New York opened on May 5th, 1891, with a concert conducted by the composer of “The Nutcracker,” Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
The hit musical “Damn Yankees,” about a middle-aged man who becomes a baseball star through a pact with the devil, opened on Broadway on May 5th, 1955.
The first perfect game in modern baseball history occurred on May 5th, 1904, when Cy Young pitched the Boston Americans to a win over the Philadelphia Athletics.
April 6th in history:
On April 6th, 1909, explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reported reaching the North Pole. Henson was African-American, and Peary has been criticized for not treating Henson as an equal member of the expedition.
Baseball executive Al Campanis was accused of making racist remarks on a broadcast of “Nightline” on April 6th, 1987. Campanis was general manager of the Dodgers until the TV interview, when he said blacks “may not have some of the necessities” to be baseball managers. He later said that he meant many blacks might not have the proper experience for the job.
Famous baseball stadiums that opened on April 6th include Miller Park in Milwaukee (2001) and Camden Yards in Baltimore (1992). It’s also the birthday of Baltimore native Barry Levinson (1942), who directed the classic baseball movie “The Natural,” starring Robert Redford and Kim Basinger.
“The Natural” was Basinger’s follow-up to the Burt Reynolds comedy “The Man Who Loved Women.” That film also featured Burt’s future TV wife on “Evening Shade,” Marilu Henner, born April 6th, 1952. Best known as Elaine on “Taxi,” Henner has written several books about health and fitness, and is one of the small group of Americans identified as having “highly superior autobiographical memory.”
Cliff Clavin also remembers lots of things, but he’s fictional. John Ratzenberger, who played know-it-all mailman Cliff on “Cheers,” was born on this date in 1947. “Cheers” and “Taxi” aired back to back Thursday nights on NBC in 1982 and ’83, and had a number of producers and writers in common.
Watch Marilu Henner, along with Triviazoids’ Brad Williams, on “60 Minutes”:
January 31st in history:
Two Wisconsin towns called Kilbourntown and Juneautown merged on January 31st, 1846, after years of disputes. They were on opposite sides of a river, and Kilbourntown on the west side often attempted to isolate Juneautown to the east. When the two towns finally became a single city, they named the new community after the river between them: the Milwaukee River.
Former Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was the baseball commissioner who suspended outspoken player John Rocker on this date in 2000. Rocker, a star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, had angered many fans with an interview in Sports Illustrated where he made racist and anti-gay remarks, and said unflattering things about New York City. January 31st also is the birthday of Ernie Banks (born 1931), the first black player for the Chicago Cubs.
And the 3M Company turned a slur against a nationality into a successful brand name when it started selling Scotch Tape on January 31st, 1930. The name “Scotch” came from a customer complaint that 3M put too little adhesive on the tape, in order to save money.