1496 –– Sadly, some things never seem to change. Syria ordered all Jews expelled from the country 523 years ago. Ignorance and anti-semitism go hand in hand, and sadly both endure.
1664 — The American colonies established the first naturalization act in Britain’s swath of the New World in 1664. This takes Congress and the Executive off the hook for today’s immigration problems. How much can we reasonably expect after only 355 years?
1689 — English Monarch James II sails to Ireland. Yeah, well, how’d that work out for you, Jimmy Boy? It sure wasn’t a good day for the Irish.
1888 — Aborigine cricket star Murrumgunarriman died this date. I’m not big on cricket, but I’ve always wanted to use the word
Murrumgunarriman in a sentence.
1903 — Baseball’s American League admits the New York Highlanders, a team with Baltimore roots. The Highlanders will become the Yankees in 1913 and have modest success over the years with above average players including Willie Keeler, John Franklin “Home Run” Baker, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter. All but Maris, Jeter and A-Rod are in the Hall of Fame: Roger Maris should be and Jeter and Rodriguez will be. And how about great Yankee managers including Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy (the only Reds this Joe McC chased were from Cincinnati), Casey Stengel and Joe Torre, all Hall of Famers. Couple guys by the name of Mel Allen and Red Barber were also Yankee family and not bad behind a microphone. Yanks have appeared in 40 World Series, winning 27. No one else is close.
1914 — George (Westinghouse Electric) Westinghouse, inventor and entrepreneur, died at age 67 in New York City. He earned his first patent at age 19, and among other things invented railroad air brakes and advanced practical development of alternating current.
1921 — One of the greats from the golden age of big-screen musicals,
Gordon MacRae, was born on this date in New Jersey. His major roles included Rodgers and Hammerstein’s acclaimed Oklahoma! and Carousel, in which he starred opposite Shirley Jones. He was paired with Doris Day in By The Light of the Silvery Moon, Starlift, and On Moonlight Bay, and with Kathryn Grayson in The Desert Song. His last film role was in 1980, and he died in 1986 from cancer complications.
1922 — Jack Kerouac’s legacy is as a key figure of the Beat Generation. The Massachusetts-born writer’s irreverent treatment of a panoply of subject matter gave legs to his noted On The Road and Mexico Blues, among others, which are still reaching new readers today. This would be his 97th birthday, but he died at just 47 from a fatal abdominal bleed brought on by chronic alcoholism.
1923 — Wally Schirra, Navy test pilot and NASA astronaut, would have been 96 today. As a member of the original Mercury 7 NASA astronauts, he visited space during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. He was the fifth American in space in the Mercury capsule he dubbed Sigma 7. In Gemini 6 he piloted the first-ever space rendezvous; and he commanded Apollo 7, the first manned mission for America’s future Moon vehicle. Schirra suffered from mouth and jaw cancer and died at 84 from a heart attack.
1928 — Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Just about everyone except Richard Burton and Woolf playwright Edward Albee, who was born on this date in 1928. Albee’s notable works include Zoo Story, The Sandbox and A Delicate Balance. His plays won three Pulitzer Prizes and two Best-Play Tony Awards, so, yeah, you could say he was pretty good at his craft. Albee lived to the age of 88.
1928 — More than 600 people died when California’s St. Francis Dam failed and 12 billion gallons of water inundated a canyon northwest of Los Angeles. It had been inspected the day before because of leakage that designer William Mulholland deemed normal. Today, scores of dams throughout the country are in dire need of repair, but no worries, it’s completely normal. Real estate tip: Buy upstream.
1933 — Agent 99, sidekick to Get Smart’s slapstick master spy Maxwell Smart, was played by Barbara Feldon. The series launched in 1970, and there are three confirmed examples of male viewers who didn’t have a crush on 99: Two were monks and the third was a blind monk. Ms. Feldon turns 86 today.
1933 — Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the first of his famous Fireside Chats on March 12. Any president who tried that today would be harshly criticized for burning innocent logs that were ripped from Mother Nature’s arms.
1938 –– Lone Star Jr, AKA Johnny Rutherford, turns 81 today. The popular Texas racer won the Indy 500 three times and also scored a national championship in Indy Cars. Some thought his budding career had come to an end when he suffered a head injury and two badly broken arms in a 1966 sprint car crash. Couldn’t have been farther from the truth: He emerged from his long healing and rehab process faster than ever. He remains very popular and is still involved in the auto racing scene.
1938 — German troops successfully occupy Austria without firing a shot in an event known as the Anschluss. This followed a sham election in which 99 percent of Austrian voters agreed to join Herr Hitler’s peaceful expansion through Eastern Europe. All opposition evaporated when approaching Panzer tanks failed to stop when threatened with red carpets. Talk about backing the wrong horse …
1945 — Just a month before the liberation of Lower Saxony and the infamous Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp, Anne Frank died there at age 15. Her story will live forever because of her poignant Diary of a Young Girl. It illuminates her childhood, the Frank family’s self-imposed house arrest in Amsterdam, capture by the Nazis, cruel transport to Bergen-Belsen and the horrid prison conditions endured by Holocaust victims.
1948 — Sweet Baby James Taylor is 71 today. He remains a formidable music figure after decades of mellow vocal interpretations. The singer-composer-guitarist has sold more than 100 million albums. I saw the largely unknown Taylor play a Louisville coffee house 50 years ago and remain a fan. Favorite moment: In a West Wing guest appearance, Taylor paid homage to the late, great Sam Cooke with a rendition of Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come. Nobody sings like Sam Cooke, but it was magic nevertheless.
1950 — Sat it ain’t so! Jon Provost, as in Timmy and Lassie, as in that cute little toe headed blond, is older than I am. Although best known as a child actor, he has had a varied and successful career both in and out of show business. I’m glad he’s still alive and well, but Timmy Martin is 69 and that does not make me happy.
1985 –– Noted arranger, conductor and violinist Eugene Ormandy, a pillar of 20th century classical music, died on this date at 84. The Budapest-born artist is best known for his remarkable 44-year career with the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra.
2001 — Robert Ludlum and Morton Downey Jr. both died on this day, which is about all they had in common. Ludlam was a brilliant novelist and master of espionage thrillers whose most famous character is Jason Bourne. His 27 novels are superior to posthumous ghost-written efforts that capitalize on his name. Ludlum died of a heart attack at age 73. Downey was America’s first television “shock jock” and pioneered trash TV. His angry schtick would be ho-hum today, but shocked audiences of the day. The chain-smoking talk show host died at 68 from lung cancer.
2011 — Three-Mile Island on steroids: Following an earthquake, a Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactor explodes in Fukushima, Japan. Eight years later, the extent of its environmental impact is yet to be fully understood.