March 2nd in history:
Just days before President Ulysses S. Grant was scheduled to leave office in 1877, Americans still didn’t know who the next president would be. A dispute over electoral votes ended March 2nd, three days before the inauguration ceremony, when a special commission declared Rutherford B. Hayes the new president by just one electoral vote. Samuel Tilden had won the popular vote in the 1876 election.
It took just three ballots to choose a new pope on March 2nd, 1939. On his 63rd birthday, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII. Pacelli was assigned to Rome for most of his priesthood, and he was welcomed to the Vatican in 1901 by Pope Leo XIII, born Vincenzo Pecci on this day in 1810.
Leo was the first pope to appear in a motion picture, and to have his voice recorded. That pope shares a birthday with a “Carpenter” who was famous for recordings: singer Karen Carpenter, born March 2nd, 1950. Teamed with her brother Richard, Karen sang lead on several hit songs in the 1970s, including “Close to You,” “Superstar,” and “Top of the World.”
Wilt Chamberlain was already a basketball superstar in 1962, as the NBA’s all-time scoring king for a single game, but he was on top of the world on March 2nd of that year. On that day, Chamberlain became the first (and so far, only) player in the league to ever score 100 points in one game, leading the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. The game played in Hershey, Pennsylvania, was broadcast on the radio, but not on TV.
Some historians believe that the Battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the Persians happened on September 10th in 490 B.C. According to legend, a messenger ran non-stop more than 20 miles from the battlefield to Athens to deliver news of a Greek victory. That legend inspired the first “marathon” foot race during the Athens Olympics of 1896.
The U.S. lost an Olympic men’s basketball game for the first time on this date in 1972, when the Soviet team took the gold medal game, 51-50. Members of the American team felt that the championship was stolen from them when the Soviets were given three chances to score the winning basket. The Americans refused to accept the silver medal.
A belt with a gold buckle, called the Hickok Belt, was created to honor the top professional athlete of the year in the U.S. Two years in a row, in 1960 and 1961, the winner of the Hickok Belt was an athlete born on September 10th…golfer Arnold Palmer (born in 1929), followed by baseball home-run record-setter Roger Maris (1934).