This Day in History
1919 — Casey Stengel releases sparrow from under his baseball cap.
1935 — Babe Ruth hits his last three home runs.
1935 — Jesse Owens sets three track world records in 45 minutes.
- Playing for the Pirates against his former team, the Dodgers, Casey Stengel was being booed mercilessly by Dodger fans. In the dugout after the sixth inning he saw a teammate holding a stunned sparrow. Stengel was due to bat in the top of the seventh. He took the sparrow and gently tucked it under his baseball cap. As he strode to the plate the crowd got on him again. He faced the crowd, tipped his hat, and the bird flew out. The crowd began laughing and Stengel won the day.
- Babe Ruth ended his career playing for the Boston Braves. In a game at Forbes Field against the Pirates, Ruth hit three home runs. Ruth played for another week with dismal results before calling it a career and retiring.
- Competing for Ohio State University at a track meet in Ann Arbor against Michigan, Owen’s feat began at 3:15 when he won the 100 yard dash in 9.4 seconds. Ten minutes later, 3:25, in the long jump, Owens leapt 26.67 feet, or 8.13 meters. It was the first time anyone had ever jumped over 8 meters. At 3:45 he ran 220 yards, or 200 meters in 20.3 seconds and he completed the amazing accomplishment when at 4pm he ran the 220 hurdles, or 200 meter hurdles in 22.6 seconds. Four world records in 45 minutes. Years later Sports Illustrated would call it the greatest 45 minutes in sports ever!
I’m curious, the next day, who got the most ink: The Sultan of Swat or the Buckeye Bullet.
1938 — Bombing of Alicante, Spain. A coastal city in eastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea, Alicante was a major port for Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Future fascist dictator Generalissimo Franco, in leading the uprising against the democratically elected government, decided to cut off the supplies flowing into Alicante. Utilizing the Aviazione Legionaria, the Italian air force, bombers roared over the unsuspecting and unprepared Alicante. This was before the days of radar and the city was far from the front where the fighting was taking place. People were in the market shopping when the bombs began to fall. Death estimates range from 275 to over 400. Another 1,000 people were wounded. It was the largest loss of civilian lives in the war, surpassing even Guernica. A tactic that was followed throughout WWII and continued today in Ukraine, the bombing was designed more to inflict terror on a civilian population than any military strategy.
Anybody who has read much of what I have written, or knows me personally, is aware I have a deep passion for the Spanish Civil War, arguably to a fault. The Last Great Lost Cause the war has been labeled. I can’t deny the following statement may be more than a little hyperbolic, but to me it was a time when the world was at a tipping point.
2020 — Murder of George Floyd. A Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of Floyd, an African-American man, for almost nine minutes, ignoring the pleas of bystanders to stop. His actions resulted in Floyd’s death. Charged with murder, he was found guilty and sentenced to 22&1/2 years in prison. Three others officers assisting at the scene are still awaiting trial as of this writing. A teenage girl recorded the scene with her cellphone and the video was met with outrage worldwide. Protest in Minneapolis and St. Paul grew into riots over the next several days. The 3rd police precinct station in Minneapolis was burned and abandoned and across the Twin Cities over 1,500 buildings and business were damaged or burned to the ground. Lake Street in Minneapolis and University Avenue in St. Paul were especially hard hit. A push for police reform in the wake of Floyd’s murder has since been stalled.
I live directly between Lake Street and University Avenue. Less than two miles from the rioting on Lake Street and about three miles from the destruction on University Avenue. For three days there was the smell on smoke in the air, the constant sound of sirens and helicopters whirling overhead. Every single place I shopped or did business was hit, some simply gone. Some of the buildings destroyed were old with classic architecture that won’t be replaced. The new look for the Twin Cities was plywood. Most if not all businesses in the two cities soon had their storefront windows covered with plywood. Whoever had the plywood concession got rich. Quickly beautiful street art was created with murals spread across plywood. 38th and Chicago, where Floyd died, became a mecca with people drawn there to share their sorrow and display their respect. Two years ago now and sadly an old saying applies: The more things change the more they stay the same.