YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH BILLIE JEAN

September 20 in history:

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan left Spain on September 20th, 1519, on a voyage to reach the Spice Islands by sailing west to reach the Pacific Ocean.  Magellan’s ships were the first ones to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic, and eventually, one ship, the Victoria, became the first to travel around the world to return to Spain.

Lewis and Clark were headed back from the Pacific Ocean toward the Mississippi when they reached a white settlement in Missouri on this date in 1806.  It took them another three days to reach St. Louis, ending the exploration of the Louisiana Territory which lasted more than two years.

The famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, before a crowd of 30,000 and a worldwide TV audience. King was the defending women’s champion at Wimbledon. Riggs won the men’s title at Wimbledon 34 years earlier.  The female pro defeated the older male pro in three straight sets.

On the same night that Billie Jean and Bobby dueled in Texas, singer Jim Croce and five other people died in the crash of a small plane headed for Texas.  Croce had just performed that night at a college in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and the plane crashed shortly after take-off from that city’s airport.  Croce’s song “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was a number-one hit that summer, and his follow-up, “I Got a Name,” was released the day after he died.

Pop singer Ricky Nelson died in a Texas plane crash in 1985.  His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, formed the rock band Nelson.  They were born on September 20th, 1967.  This is also the birthday of another set of rock-and-roll twins, Chuck and John Panozzo of Styx, born in 1948.

A THREE-YEAR TOUR

September 26 in history:

Explorer Francis Drake ended a three-year voyage around the world when he arrived back at his starting point of Plymouth, England, on this date in 1580.  Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth less than a year later.

The cruise ship Queen Mary was launched on September 26th, 1934.  It made regular cruises between Europe and the U.S. before it was retired in 1967, and docked in Long Beach, California.

“A three-hour tour” for the S.S. Minnow led to a three-year run on CBS for the sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” which premiered on September 26th, 1964.  “Gilligan” producer Sherwood Schwartz launched another iconic sitcom on this day exactly five years later in 1969, when “The Brady Bunch” made its debut on ABC.

And “The Beverly Hillbillies” also had its premiere on September 26th, in 1962…the birthday of Donna Douglas (1933), who played Elly May Clampett.