This Day in History
1870 — Cincinnati Red Stockings lose. The Red Stockings are considered baseball’s first professional team. Their winning started in 1869 and they finished that season with a record of 57–0. The score of their first game was 45–9 and most of their wins were by lopsided scores. They once scored 103 runs in a game. The Red Stockings, and the streak, changed America’s thoughts on amateurism. Up until that point people believed sports should be played for love of the game, not money. But the Cincinnati team traveled the nation and became a sensation. They played before large crowds and in New York, Boss Tweed, head of the corrupt organization Tammany Hall, watched them. In Washington D.C., after their win, they were invited to the White House and entertained by President Grant.
Cincinnati was a meat-packing town with immigrants laboring in the city’s slaughterhouse. To some it was known as Porkopolis. Seeking the respectability and importance of Eastern cities was the impetus behind funding the team. The effort was successful, it put Cincinnati on the map. Then on June 14th, 1870, they played the Brooklyn Atlantics. After nine innings the score was 5–5 and in extra innings the Atlantics won and the streak ended at 81 wins. Interest, and ticket sales, immediately fell off after the loss. Other teams outbid the Red Stockings for their best players and by 1871 they no longer fielded a team. However their existence did signal the beginning of professional baseball.
The Red Stockings. Cincinnati should have stuck with that, better than the Reds. Less socialistic.
1934 — Hitler & Mussolini meet. At the time of this meeting, Benito Mussolini, founder of Fascism, was a powerful figure while Adolf Hitler was still not much more than an upstart. The meeting did not go well. It took place in Italy and Hitler, wearing civilian clothes, was thrown off balance by Mussolini wearing a uniform. Also Hitler had requested a private meeting but Mussolini invited the press. When they finally met in private they argued over Austria. Hitler wanted it to be part of Germany and Mussolini thought it should be an independent state. Hitler went off on a rant on this topic. After the meeting was over Mussolini referred to him as a “mad little clown.”
Mussolini sure got that one right.
1953 — President Eisenhower condemns book burning. This was at the height of Senator Joe McCarthy’s rampage against anything he thought might be un-American. One of McCarthy’s demands was the banning of books he found to be “subversive.” Eisenhower was still a new president and McCarthy was challenging him for control of the Republican Party. Scheduled to address the graduating class at Dartmouth College, Ike was expected to deliver only a few brief remarks. Instead he put aside his prepared notes and spoke off the cuff. Part of what he said was: “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”
“With extremist ideas like that, do you think Ike would stand a chance in today’s Republican Party? Whereas Joe McCarthy would flourish.”
1864 — Alois Alzheimer. German psychiatrist, neuropathologist. Working in Frankfurt, Germany, in the early 1900s Alzheimer became interested in the lab work of senile illnesses. He studied a patient in an asylum, Auguste Deter, afflicted with some strange symptoms, including short term memory loss. After she died he took possession of her medical records and brain. He identified her brain anomalies which later became known as Alzheimer’s Disease. Publicly presenting his findings at a seminar for psychiatrists in 1906, he received little interest from the attendees. They were all waiting for the next speaker who was talking about compulsive masturbation. Alzheimer died young, age 51, from heart disease.
Alzheimer’s. His name, sadly, has become very well known in today’s world.
1909 — Burl Ives. Singer, actor. Born in a small town in Illinois Ives went to what is now Eastern Illinois University where he played football. After two years he decided college was a waste of time and with his banjo he hit the road. He lived on odd jobs and singing, and despite some setbacks, in Montana he was jailed for vagrancy and singing a too bawdy version of “Foggy Dew,” his career began to take shape. He had a show on a radio station in Indiana for a while and in 1938 he got a role on a Broadway musical. Moving to Hollywood he shared an apartment with actor Eddie Albert. (On April 22nd I did a piece on Eddie Albert.) In the 40s and 50s he made a living recording traditional folk song such as “Blue Tail Fly” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain. At one point he was associated with “The Almanacs,” a loosely formed singing group that included Woody Guthrie, Will Geer and Pete Seeger. It was a far left wing group that eventually landed him in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. There he cooperated with the committee, much to the ire of Pete Seeger, and his career continued unhampered. He acted in a number of movies, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “The Big Country,” for which he won an Academy Award, and “Ensign Pulver.” He announced his retirement when he was 80 years old but he reconciled with Pete Seeger and they appeared together for a benefit concert in 1993. Ives died of cancer in 1995.
As a sailor stationed aboard a ship in San Diego, I had little liberty time. Movies were an escape for me when I did. One afternoon I wandered into a movie theater and watched “Ensign Pulver.” A not very good, or realistic, movie about the Navy. But somehow I didn’t judge it that way. I just let it do what a movie is supposed to do, take me away, for a while, an escape, from a life I didn’t like. So thank you, Burl.
1930 — Robert McCarry. CIA spy, and writer. After a stint in the Army, where he was a writer for the “Stars and Stripes,” he became a speech writer for President Eisenhower. He left that to become a CIA operative, traveling the world. He took a leave of absence to join the 1960 Nixon campaign for president. Returning to work as a spy for another half dozen years, he quit in 1967 to become a writer. McCarry wrote a novel, what he called a closely remembered narrative of his clandestine experiences, and then he burned it. He said that set him free to make up characters and situations and not be tied to reality.
Hmm, interesting. Other than John LeCarre, I not much into spy novels but maybe I’ll give him a try.
I passed on a number of notables for today’s birthday list including Che Guevara and Donald Trump. The pairing of the two might have been just too dangerously fun.