Titanic sets sail from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The crew capsule of Apollo 13 is recovered. (Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)
The Astrodome first opened April 9, 1965. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The reconstructed parlor of McLean House in Appomattox Court House, VA, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A statue of Saddam Hussein is removed from Baghdad, Iraq. (Source: U.S. Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)
(RNN) – There are two major historical events inexplicably linked because they happened over the same two-day period – the sinking of the Titanic and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln was shot April 14 and died April 15. Titanic hit an iceberg April 14 and sunk April 15. I'll discuss Titanic this week and Lincoln next week.
Titanic departed Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, and hit an iceberg four days later. The ship was overhyped and thought to be some sort of engineering miracle and, because rich people would rather be able to walk freely along the deck and look at vast expanses of nothingness than, you know, not die, hundreds of people froze in the Atlantic Ocean.
I like to think we've learned from stuff like this, but then I see the Costa Concordia flip over and the Carnival Triumph go dead in the water and I realize we're as dumb as ever. Those ships didn't cause a massive loss of life and famous people weren't affected too much because now they can buy their own private ships and, you know, not be inconvenienced.
A lot of famous people on board the Titanic died, including John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim, Ida and Isidor Strauss, the ship's builder Thomas Andrews and its captain Edward Smith. Others, such as Margaret Brown and Millvina Dean, became famous because they survived.
Many of the bodies were either never recovered or not identified.
Here are some of the events of note that happened between April 8-14.
Life and Death
Robin Wright, who played Jenny in Forrest Gump, was born April 8, 1966, and her on-screen son, Haley Joel Osment, was born April 10, 1988. Both might be more famous for other roles. Osment was the kid with a creepy ability in The Sixth Sense and Wright was Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride.
John Madden was born April 8, 1949, and April 10, 1936. That might be confusing so allow me to explain. April 8, 1949, is the birthday of British film director John Madden, who was nominated for an Oscar after directing Shakespeare in Love. The film won best picture, but he rightfully lost to Saving Private Ryan director Steven Spielberg.
April 10, 1936, is the birthday of American football crazy-man John Madden. Madden is the only person who has made a career of being himself and then made a second career of being a caricature of himself. He also helped launched the career of impressionist Frank Caliendo. It's hard to know if Madden really knows what he's talking about or not. He knows football – at least, I think he does – but plays around with the telestrator like a 4-year-old with an Etch-A-Sketch and has an unhealthy obsession with Brett Favre. ("He can pick up a baseball with his foot.")
That video is a two-for-one, because David Letterman's birthday is April 12, 1947, a year after Ed O'Neill, who played Al Bundy, and 40 years before Brooklyn Decker, who made wonderful appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Adult-themed birthdays this week include Hugh Hefner born April 9, 1926, and Jenna Jameson born April 9, 1974. Future Baseball Hall of Famer Greg Maddux was born April 14, 1966, and Pete Rose, who I hope is a Future Baseball Hall of Famer, was born April 14, 1941.
It's time now for another installment of People Who Are Somehow Connected to John Wayne. Ward Bond was born April 9, 1903, Harry Morgan was born April 10, 1915, and Roscoe Lee Browne died April 11, 2007.
Bond appeared in more than 20 movies with Wayne, including Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, The Searchers and Bundy's favorite, Hondo. Morgan was the local lawman who was excited to hear Wayne's character in The Shootist had cancer, and Browne was the cook who went with Wayne and a bunch of kids on a cattle drive in The Cowboys and avenged his death.
Clara Barton (1912) and Franklin Roosevelt (1945) died April 12. Barton formed the Red Cross and is buried in a grave adorned with the organization's symbol. Roosevelt was in his fourth term as president. Roosevelt's presidency was defined by World War II, but he died just a few months before it ended.
The most boring day of the 20th century was April 11, 1954. I tried to look up some stuff that happened on that day, and didn't find much. That should have been fairly obvious, I guess. A bunch of information and events were plugged into a computer and it spat out the date on which the fewest things of note happened.
The 17th Amendment went into law April 8, 1913, providing for the direct election of U.S. senators. Prior to this, state legislatures elected the senators from their state. I'm only able to name one person in my state's legislature and he doesn't even represent the area where I live, so this was probably a good idea. Who am I kidding? Anytime the people get the chance to tell a politician they stink at their job, it's always a great idea.
The U.S. bought Alaska on April 9, 1867. I've never seen a moose in person, so Alaska is failing this country miserably. Big Ben was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on April 10, 1858, the ASPCA was founded April 10, 1866, Noah Webster copyrighted the dictionary April 14, 1828, and the U.S. table tennis team was "the first Americans to visit the land of China in, like, a million years, or something like that" April 10, 1971.
The first space shuttle was launched April 12, 1981, and the oxygen tank aboard Apollo 13 exploded April 13, 1970. American ingenuity was on full display as NASA scientists figured out how to rig a device that could keep the astronauts alive and bring them back to Earth safely. They failed to reach the moon, but the mission is seen as one of the biggest success stories in American history.
Something About Sports
Hank Aaron provided what I think is the best moment in baseball history when he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record April 8, 1974. The moment has several memorable calls associated with it, but for my money Vin Scully's is the best. Scully called the homer by simply saying "it is gone" and then did something today's announcers would find unthinkable: He shut up. Then 26 seconds later, Scully talks about the significance of the moment and illustrates the unifying power of sports with the simple and classic statement that "a black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South."
Even as brilliant as Scully is, the cheers of the fans and the sounds of fireworks going off as Aaron rounds the bases paint a better picture than any announcer ever could. Aaron was joined by two fans as he rounded the bases and players from the Los Angeles Dodgers shook his hand as he completed the circuit.
The Astrodome opened April 9, 1965. When I first went to college, I studied architecture and I thought it would be awesome to build a stadium that was a traditional dome, but had a field of real grass. I was obviously a bad architecture student because that already existed and had been a failure. It was called the Astrodome.
The dome itself is a technological marvel of its time, but it had a glass roof that allowed grass to grow inside until players complained of the glare coming off the glass and it had to be covered. The grass then died and the Houston Astros played the rest of the stadium's first season on painted dirt. Fake grass, known as Astroturf, was then developed to be used in the stadium and now we use a variant of it in stadiums that aren't even indoors.
Humans are stupid.
Tiger Woods became the youngest person to win the Masters on April 13, 1997, and on APril 10, 2005 made what is probably the best shot of his career. Woods birdied the 16th hole at Augusta National in dramatic fashion. The ball slowly rolled down hill to the lip of the cup and came to a stop before finally dropping in. Woods went on to win.
The Week in Warfare
The Civil War both started and ended this week. The Confederacy fired the first shots on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant on April 9, 1865. There was still some fighting – Mobile, AL, fell to the Union three days later – that went on after Lee's surrender, but that was the symbolic end of the war.
Lee surrendered in a dignified manner, appearing for the occasion in an immaculate uniform while Grant was muddy and disheveled. Lee's men were allowed to keep their personal property, including horses, and were allowed to eat the Union Army's food.
A statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Iraq, was taken down April 9, 2003.
Holiday You Should Celebrate
Appropriately, April 10 is Golfer's Day. It's the day before the Masters, so go play golf. (Note: It is NOT Lose Your Ball In The Woods Day.)
Preview of next week
"Now he belongs to the ages."
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