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.
January 29th in history:
In 1845, readers of the New York Evening Mirror got their first look at a new poem by Edgar Allan Poe, called “The Raven” — published in the January 29th edition. Because Poe lived for many years in Baltimore and is buried there, the Baltimore Ravens football team was named in honor of the poem.
Baltimore-born Babe Ruth became one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 29th, 1936. The Babe and Honus Wagner tied for second place in that first hall of fame election behind long-time Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb.
And January 29th is the birthday of the actor who often wore a Tigers baseball cap in his TV role as “Magnum, P.I.,” Detroit native Tom Selleck (1945).
January 23rd in history:
On January 23, 1997, Madeleine Albright became the first member of a very exclusive club when she was sworn in as America’s first female secretary of state. The group of women who have headed the State Department now includes Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The first group of artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame received that honor on this date in 1986. Among the first inductees were Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and James Brown – not to be confused with TV sports reporter James Brown or Cleveland Browns football star Jim Brown.
O.J. Simpson was in a club all by himself on January 23, 1985. He became the first Heisman Trophy winner voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Another “first” for a hall of fame on this date…Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 23rd, 1962.
January 16th in history:
Prohibition became the law in the U.S. when 36 states ratified the 18th Amendment. That threshold was reached on January 16th, 1919, when five states approved the amendment in one day. The actual ban on alcohol took effect one year later.
“I get no kick from champagne” is the opening line of the song “I Get a Kick Out of You,” introduced by Ethel Merman in the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.” Merman was born January 16th, 1908. She originated the roles of Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” and played Mrs. Marcus in the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
The beer-brewing Busch family has its name on the home stadium of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Two famous players for the Cardinals were born on January 16th…Jay “Dizzy” Dean (1910) and Albert Pujols (1980).
On this date in 1970, center fielder Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball to protest his trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies. Flood’s challenge of the baseball “reserve clause” eventually helped Major League players to become free agents, who could choose which teams to play for.
January 12th in history:
Just a month after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt took action on January 12th of 1942 to prevent major industries from shutting down. Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board, to stop strikes by workers at businesses supplying vital materials for the war.
It wasn’t Roosevelt that Archie and Edith Bunker wanted to see again, but Herbert Hoover. Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, as the Bunkers, praised Hoover in the song “Those Were the Days” to open the first episode of “All in the Family” on CBS, January 12th, 1971.
January 12th was the premiere date for “Batman” on ABC in 1966. For most of its three years on the air, “Batman” was seen twice a week, with a story beginning on the Wednesday episode and building to a cliff-hanger ending to be resolved on Thursday, “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” Many stories began with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) receiving his assignment over the “Batphone” from Police Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City.
For 23 years, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the commissioner of bats, balls, diamonds, and all things related to baseball in the US. Landis, a federal judge, was elected the first commissioner of baseball on January 12th, 1921.
And happy birthday to Mr. Freese…not a “Batman” villain, but saxophone player Jason Freese, born on this date in 1975. Freese has performed with Green Day and other popular rock bands..