Day By Day

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Day In History

Today is International Skeptics Day so go out there and question everything. Start with yourself..., lessee now..., I think I think, therefore I think I am..., or maybe not. How can I be sure? Then move on to less interesting subjects. Can I really believe what Obama says about the personal and social benefits of government run health insurance?

On this day in 54 AD, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus became emperor of Rome. There is no truth to the traditions that he was the Antichrist or that he fiddled while Rome burned. Historians are not all that sure that he was even a bad emperor. He did get some really bad press though from aristocratic chroniclers, but he appears to have been quite popular with commoners.

If you were one of the Knights Templar in France in 1307 today was a very bad day for you. King Philip just ordered that all of you be rounded up and tortured to death to pay for your sins, and to give Dan Brown something to write about someday.

On this day in 1775 the Continental Congress decides that if they are going to get serious about this war with Britain they will need a navy. They ordered the construction of two warships, and thus was born the United States Navy.

And on this day in 1812 at the Battle of Queenstown Heights in Ontario British forces turned back a United States invading army.

On this day in 1890 Conrad Richter, Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist, was born in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. He worked all levels of the publishing world and could write anything. He wrote for and edited newspapers, wrote for the Saturday Evening Post; his work appeared in numerous pulp magazines spanning subjects as diverse as ghost stories, mysteries, science fiction, romance, and westerns. He also produced several historical novels. Two of them, The Sea of Grass and The Light In the Forest were made into films; another The Town was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. I remember as a teenager going to see Light in the Forest in the theater and being completely mesmerized by Carol Lynley, who played one of the leads. Click here to see why.

And on this day in 1903 the Boston Pilgrims defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series five games to three.

And on this day in 1925 the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, was born. Whether you agreed with her or not, you always knew one thing -- she would never, ever go wobbly on you.

Two Jazz greats, Art Tatum and Ray Brown, were born on this day [in 1910 and 1926 respectively].

a sample of Tatum's amazing technique. He was universally acknowledged as the greatest jazz pianist of his time. [Commentary by Chick Corea, not a bad keyboard artist himself]

And here's an example of Ray Brown's work. Ray was a Pittsburgh kid and as a young man was a fixture of the Pittsburgh Jazz Scene. He then went on to play with Tatum, Diz, Bird, and Oscar Peterson. He backed Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Billy Eckstein, and Sarah Vaughan. Along with Milt Jackson and Kenny Clarke he formed the legendary MJQ [Modern Jazz Quartet]. He was married to Ella Fitzgerald!!!! He promoted the careers of Quincy Jones and Diana Krall. You get the picture -- everybody of note in the Jazz universe wanted to work with Ray Brown. He was that good.

And, saving the best for last, on this day in 1960 Bill Mazeroski led off the ninth inning with a home run over the scoreboard at Forbes Field to beat the Yankees 10-9 in the seventh game of the World Series. I don't care what they say -- to me that still stands as the greatest baseball game ever played.