August 17 in history:
Inventor Robert Fulton helped people travel faster by water with his steamboat, the Clermont, which completed its first round trip between New York City and Albany on this date in 1807. The Clermont traveled on the Hudson River at the rate of five miles an hour.
Michael Phelps showed during the 2008 Summer Olympics that he was faster than other swimmers. On August 17th that year, Phelps took his eighth gold for the U.S. at Beijing. No person had ever won that many golds in one Olympiad before Phelps.
President Bill Clinton got into hot water when he was accused of lying under oath about an alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On this date in 1998, Clinton admitted to a relationship with Lewinsky, and four months later, he was impeached for committing perjury.
Clinton’s admission contradicted his famous quote “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Actress Mae West came up with plenty of famous quotes about sex in her long career. She was born August 17th, 1892.
July 31 in history:
American swimmer Michael Phelps set the individual record for Olympic medals on this date at the London Olympics of 2012, with a gold medal in a freestyle relay. By the end of the London Games, Phelps had won 22 Olympic medals in all.
On July 31st, 1936, the International Olympic Committee announced that Tokyo would host the summer games in 1940. By 1938, the Japanese government cancelled plans for the Olympics, because the country was at war with China.
More than one-third of the 1981 major league baseball season in the U.S. was cancelled because of a strike by the players’ association over the free agent system. The strike was settled on July 31st, and the season resumed with the All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Wesley Snipes played ball for the Cleveland Indians in the movie “Major League.” Snipes, born in 1962, shares a July 31st birthday with long-time baseball announcer Curt Gowdy (1919), and the inventor of the fictional sport Quidditch, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling (1965).
June 6th in history:
American orator Patrick Henry is famous for saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” in 1775. Henry achieved liberty long before his death, on this date in 1799.
Another Founding Father who led the fight for liberty in America was John Adams, the subject of a 2008 mini-series, starring Paul Giamatti as Adams. Giamatti, born June 6th, 1967, won an Emmy award for “John Adams,” and received an Oscar nomination for “Cinderella Man.
James Meredith was shot and wounded while leading a civil rights march through Mississippi on June 6th, 1966.
Runner Tommie Smith won the gold in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and then chose to give a “Black Power” salute during the medal ceremony, for which he was suspended from the U.S team. Smith was born on June 6th, 1944 – the day of the Allied D-Day invasion to liberate Europe.
February 22nd in history:
Another legendary sports event happened on this date in 1980: the “Miracle on Ice,” in which the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team surprised the world by beating the Soviets, 4-3, in the semi-final round of the Winter Games. The Americans went on to win the gold against Finland in the games at Lake Placid, New York.
Actor Kirk Douglas once served as royalty at a winter carnival in Lake Placid. During the week of the Miracle on Ice game, Douglas was hosting “Saturday Night Live” in New York, featuring NBC announcer Don Pardo, born on this day in 1918. Until his death in 2014, Pardo had been the SNL announcer for most of the show’s run. Pardo also worked on the original versions of “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right,” and broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination on WNBC-TV in New York in 1963.
David Letterman was getting ready to move his talk show from NBC to CBS when it was announced on February 22nd, 1993 that CBS had bought the Ed Sullivan Theater, to keep Letterman’s show in New York.
On this day in 1964, the Beatles returned to England after their famous first visit to the U.S., which included three straight appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The band had pre-recorded its performance which would be seen on “Sullivan” the next night.
January 6th in history:
Two months after being elected president, Franklin Pierce was traveling with his wife and 11-year-old son when their train derailed in Massachusetts on January 6th, 1853. Pierce’s son Benjamin died in the crash, and he was the couple’s last surviving child. Mrs. Pierce reportedly believed that her son’s death was God’s way of punishing Mr. Pierce for seeking the presidency.
Joan of Arc was punished for heresy by being burned at the stake when she was 19. Joan was born on this date in 1412.
Skater Nancy Kerrigan asked “Why me?” after being clubbed in the knee by a stranger while training for the U.S. Figure Skating finals in Detroit on January 6th, 1994. After Kerrigan withdrew from the competition, rival Tonya Harding won the ladies’ title. But then, both were named to the U.S. Olympic team which would compete that winter in Norway, where Kerrigan would win a silver medal. Harding’s career was ruined when it turned out that her ex-husband and others had planned the attack on Kerrigan to help Tonya’s chances of getting to the Olympics.
Kerrigan grew up in the Boston area. On this date in 1975, about two thousand Led Zeppelin fans trashed the Boston Garden arena while waiting to buy tickets to a Zeppelin show. The mayor of Boston punished those fans gone wild by banning Led Zeppelin from the city for five years. The band also boycotted the city on their own, and never played in Boston again.
October 10 in history:
On October 10th, 1973, Spiro Agnew became the second U.S. Vice President to resign. He pled “no contest” to a charge of failing to report money he had been paid as a bribe while serving as governor of Maryland. Agnew’s resignation led to the first use of the 25th Amendment to fill a vacancy in the office of vice president.
The U.S. Naval Academy opened in Maryland on this date in 1845, at Annapolis. Commodore Matthew Perry helped establish the academy, years before he traveled to Japan to open formal relations between the U.S. and the Japanese.
Author James Clavell was famous for writing books set in Japan, including “Shogun” and “King Rat.” Clavell was born on October 10th, 1924.
And October 10th was the opening day of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.