Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. “Secretariat” made regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it was two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).
June 9th in history:
On June 9th, 1973, Secretariat became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years by taking first place in the Belmont Stakes.
Many people have heard that a Roman emperor appointed his horse to the Senate, but they’re not sure whether it was Caligula or Nero. Several sources say Caligula. Nero married for the first time on June 9th, 53 A.D. He and his first wife, Claudia Octavia, would both commit suicide on their wedding anniversary: Claudia in 62, and then Nero in 68. He killed himself to avoid being executed under orders of the Roman Senate.
The actress who played Senator (and Queen) Amidala in three “Star Wars” movies, Natalie Portman, was born June 9th, 1981.
Senator Joseph McCarthy was confronted by attorney Joseph Welch on live television during a Senate hearing on June 9th, 1954. McCarthy had just accused a young lawyer in Welch’s firm of being a Communist, to which Welch responded “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Writer Aaron Sorkin has been successful doing TV series and movies about Washington politics, notably “The West Wing” and “The American President.” Sorkin was born on June 9th, 1961 — the same day and year as actor Michael J. Fox, who appeared in “American President.” Fox’s most famous characters are Alex P. Keaton on “Family Ties” and time-traveler Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” movies.