Milestones: Wednesday, September 20, 2023
LEGENDARY ON AND OFF THE BALLCOURT — RED AUERBACH, BORN IN BROOKLYN as Arnold Jacob Auerbach on Sept. 20, 1917, was a legendary basketball coach who in 1980 was named the greatest coach in NBA history by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, and who gained wide respect as the best sports executive in history. Auerbach coached the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1966, winning nine NBA titles, including eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966. After he retired from coaching Auerbach was either general manager or president of the Celtics for more than three decades, from 1966 until 1997, and then was team president from 2001 until his death in 2006.
Interviewed for a 2001 article in The Brooklyn Rail, the then-83-year-old Auerbach recalled growing up in Williamsburg, south of the Lincoln Savings Bank on Broadway and S. 5th St.) and playing basketball at Eastern District High School, which had been founded in 1900 near Driggs and S. 3rd St. but closed during the 1990s.
BROOKLYN HTS. AND GREENWICH VILLAGE — “THE COSBY SHOW,” WHICH MADE ITS TV PREMIERE on Sept. 20, 1984, centered on a successful Black American family living in Brooklyn Heights. The series, which won six Emmy Awards and numerous nominations, revolved around the lives of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, an obstetrician and family patriarch (Bill Cosby), his wife, Claire, an attorney (Phylicia Rashad), four daughters and a son. There was also a spin-off set at Black Hillman College, where daughter Denise (Lisa Bonet) attended.
Although the show’s setting was in Brooklyn (as Bill Cosby reportedly disliked Hollywood), the building used for exterior shots was in Greenwich Village and filming was done in Queens. The Huxtables’ address was 10 Stigwood Avenue, but no such street can be found in real-life Brooklyn Heights.
BEAT HIM AT HIS OWN GAME — BILLIE JEAN KING ON SEPT. 20, 1973, WON THE FAMOUS “BATTLE OF THE SEXES” against tennis star Bobby Riggs in three straight sets in a nationally-televised match. King was 29 at the time and the top women’s tennis player, while her opponent, known for making sexist remarks, was 55 and had claimed he could beat any female player, even at his age. The prior year, Billie Jean King had been named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” and in 1973, she became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association. King, who also established a sports foundation and magazine for women and a team tennis league, coached the Philadelphia Freedoms, and was the first woman to lead a co-ed pro team.
British rock icon Elton John’s 1973 song, Philadelphia Freedom, was dedicated to Billy Jean King and the team for which she played, “The Philadelphia Freedoms.” The team dissolved after a year but the song hit #1 on the Billboard chart, and Billie Jean King remained a tennis icon and a symbol of Pride.
THE LONG DEPRESSION — THE FINANCIAL PANIC OF 1873 MARKS ITS OWN SESQUICENTENNIAL in 2013. The 1873 panic marked the first time in its history that the New York Stock Exchange was forced to close because of a banking crisis that some claim began in Europe and other historians tie more closely to the United States’ fledgling railroad development. Many historians point out that both were factors, as German financiers became major investors in the American railroads. But when European banks experienced a bubble break, the investment funds stopped flowing. The Financial Panic of 1873 was detrimental psychologically as well to business leaders and investors on this side of the Atlantic, as it lasted for six years, until early 1879 and was called the Long Depression.
By comparison, the Great Depression began with the 1929 US stock market crash but was mitigated starting in 1933 by newly-inaugurated President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and later entry into World War II.
JAZZ MUSICIAN BORN — FERDINAND “JELLY ROLL: MORTON, born on Sept. 20, 1885, in New Orleans, was an American jazz pianist, composer and orchestra leader. Born of Creole ancestry, he was awarded a Grammy and inducted, posthumously, into the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.
Biographer Alan Lomax’s book, Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and “Inventor of Jazz”, was published in 1950, an updated edition includes several more resources, including Jelly Roll’s own arrangements, a discography and a genealogy of his ancestors.
See previous milestones, here.
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