February 1st in history:
President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
The 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln” was directed by John Ford, born February 1st, 1894. Ford is best known for his Westerns, and won four Oscars for directing in his career. He won his last directing Oscar, for “The Quiet Man,” in March of 1953…the same year he made “Mogambo,” starring Clark Gable, born on this day in 1901. Gable won an Oscar for the comedy “It Happened One Night,” but his most famous role in a 30-year movie career was as Rhett Butler in the Civil War romance “Gone With the Wind.”
Ford also won an Oscar for the Dust Bowl drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. The title comes from the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
The University of Minnesota Marching Band routinely performs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Minnesota Gopher football games in Minneapolis. For the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, singer Justin Timberlake was chosen to star in the halftime show, 14 years after his controversial February 1st, 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Timberlake tore part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
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 28th in history:
On January 28th, 1959, Vince Lombardi was hired to coach the Green Bay Packers. Under Lombardi, the Packers won five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. The championship trophy for the Super Bowl eventually was named after him.
In Super Bowl XXX, played on this date in 1996, the Dallas Cowboys became the first team to win three Lombardi Trophies in four years. Dallas defeated Pittsburgh, 27-17.
Super Bowl XXX received higher ratings than any other TV broadcast up until that time, except for the last episode of “M*A*S*H” in 1983. Alan Alda, who played Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce for 11 years on “M*A*S*H,” was born January 28th, 1936.
January 24th in history:
The California Gold Rush was triggered on January 24th, 1848, when James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill. Most of the U.S. didn’t hear about the discovery until late in ’48, when President James K. Polk mentioned the gold rush in his State of the Union message. The treasure hunters who went to California in the months afterward became known as ’49ers.
Today’s 49ers, the NFL team from San Francisco, played in the Super Bowl for the first time on January 24, 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. They won Super Bowl XVI by a 26-21 score over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The ring awarded to Super Bowl winners is made of gold and decorated with diamonds. January 24th is the birthday of Olympic gold-medal winner Mary Lou Retton (born 1968) and singer-songwriter Neil Diamond (1941).
The Super Bowl didn’t become known for clever and expensive TV commercials until Apple Computers did a parody of the book “1984” to introduce its new Macintosh personal computer. The Super Bowl ad ran two days before the Mac officially went on sale January 24th, 1984.
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.
November 29 in history:
The Army and the Navy met each other on the football field for the first time on November 29th, 1890, at West Point. The Army Cadets had the home field advantage, but they were shut out by the Navy 24-0. Now, the contest is usually played at a neutral site, Philadelphia.
The tradition of playing pro football on Thanksgiving began on this date in 1934, when the holiday was still celebrated on the last Thursday of November, instead of the fourth Thursday. The Lions had just moved to Detroit, and as a publicity stunt, the club’s new owner arranged to have the team play a Thanksgiving Day ball game. Detroit has hosted an NFL game on Thanksgiving ever since.
The Lions lost that first Thanksgiving game to the Chicago Bears. Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, was born on November 29th, 1959. Another famous Illinois politician born on November 29th was U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Paul Simon (1928).
November 21 in history:
Thomas Edison became famous for many of his inventions, but the first one that caught on was the phonograph. Edison announced the development of the sound recording device on November 21st, 1877. His machine could both record sound on a metal cylinder and play it back. Edison discovered that the phonograph worked when he recorded “Mary had a little lamb…”
The phonograph eventually led to other recording devices, such as the VCR. No doubt, video recorders all over the U.S. were being used on November 21st, 1980, to tape the season premiere of “Dallas.” It was the first new episode in eight months, since the cliffhanger episode in which bad guy J.R. Ewing was shot and wounded by an offscreen attacker. The answer to the popular question “Who shot J.R.?” was…his mistress Kristin Shepard, played by Mary Crosby. That night, “Dallas” set an American ratings record, broken three years later by the last episode of “M*A*S*H.”
“Dallas” was still on the air in 1989 when quarterback Troy Aikman joined the Dallas Cowboys. He spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys, leading them to three Super Bowl titles in four years. Aikman was born November 21st, 1966.