Milestones: Thursday, September 28, 2023
USHERED IN NEW ERA — WILLIAM, DUKE OF NORMANDY invaded England at Pevensey on Britain’s southeast coast, to claim his right to the British throne on Sept. 28, 1066 (Julian calendar). The illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy who named William as his heir because he had no other sons, William became duke at the tender age of 7, in 1035. He had to fight to maintain his position as rebellions were frequent. Managing to escape death, he became a capable ruler by the time he reached his 20th birthday. He had two kings by the name of Harold (one of these being Harald of Sweden) try overpowering him. But on Christmas Day, 1066, William prevailed, having marched into London and secured the city’s allegiance to him. William was crowned the first Norman king of England, in Westminster Abbey.
William the Conqueror’s coronation ushered in a new period of English history, one with a decidedly French influence as French became the official language at court. Eventually, French and the Anglo-Saxon language became blended into what transformed into modern English.
‘KING OF SUNDAY NIGHT TELEVISION’ — ED SULLIVAN, BORN in New York City on Sept. 28, 1901, became the host of the eponymous long-running TV variety program, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” This popular Sunday night show, airing on CBS during the 1950s and 1960s, showcased and in some cases debuted many entertainers, foremost among them the Beatles, on Feb. 9, 1964. Sullivan, who had begun his career in news reporting before moving toward producing vaudeville shows, during the peak of his show hosted many celebrities, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Rudolf Nureyev, Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope.
Sullivan was also notable for featuring African-American performers in his program, courageously welcoming them over the objections of his sponsors. Guests such as Pearl Bailey, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Leontyne Price, Louis Armstrong, Richard Pryor, Duke Ellington, Richie Havens and the Supremes all became iconic performers.
‘THE BLACK SOX SCANDAL’ — A Chicago grand jury indicted eight members of the Chicago White Sox on charges of fixing a loss in the 1919 World Series in exchange for money. On Sept. 28, 1920, eight of the players admitted to the fix, in which noted gambler Arnold Rothstein was allegedly a party. Upon their admission, team owner Charles Comiskey immediately suspended the eight: Chick Gandil, Buck Weaver, Happy Felsch, Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.” Although the players decided to abandon the fix after feeling they had been swindled, they lost the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, that team’s first-ever trophy win.
Although the eight were eventually acquitted, the Honorable Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge who had been appointed Baseball Commissioner to clean corruption from the game, handed them a lifetime suspension from organized baseball.
LAST TO BAT ABOVE .400 — THE BOSTON RED SOX’S TED WILLIAMS, on Sept. 28, 1941, the last day of Major League Baseball’s regular season, snagged six hits in eight at-bats during a doubleheader in Philadelphia, boosting his average to .406. Williams, who became the first player since 1930 to hit .400, went on a year later to win the American League Triple Crown, for the highest batting average and most RBIs and home runs. He won the Triple Crown again in 1947. Williams, whose entire career was with the Red Sox, played his final game on Sept. 28, 1960, at Boston’s Fenway Park. He homered in his final at-bat, giving him 521 for his career. He was a 1966 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although other players before Williams had attained a batting average of at least .400, Williams still holds that record as the most recent hitter to do so; no major leaguer has since matched it. He once said, “I never wanted anything harder in my life.”
‘FREEDOM FLIGHTS’ — CUBAN DICTATOR FIDEL CASTRO on Sept. 28, 1965, announced that any Cuban who wished to leave the island was free to do so. He made this decision against the backdrop of the failed U.S.-led Bay of Pigs invasion of 1962 which almost catapulted the United States and the Soviet Union to war during the Kennedy administration. In fact, a widely-held public opinion was that Castro had plotted Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, even though proof was never established. The U.S. trade embargo caused great poverty, and Castro decided to reduce the stress by opening the border, leading to a massive wave of emigration. The haphazard water crossing from Camarioca to the Miami, Florida coastline actually led the U.S. and Cuba to cooperate on creating the “Freedom Flights” airlift program; about 300,000 made the trip during that period.
The mass emigration was an ironic win-win for both Cuba and the United States: Castro was free of dissenters and the campaign became a propaganda victory for America — and it led to the establishment of Miami’s “Little Havana” neighborhood, complete with restaurants featuring Cuban food, particularly on Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th St.).
LANDMARK MOMENT FOR SHIPPING — THE MELTIC OF THE ARCTIC ICE, although a disaster related to climate change, proved to be a boon for the shipping industry. Just five years ago, on Sept. 28, 2018, the cargo ship Venta Maersk, having successfully navigated the Russian arctic, landed at St. Petersburg. The Venta Maersk had departed from Vladivostok, bordering Korea in Russia’s Far East, in a journey taking more than a month. The search for a maritime cargo route navigating Eurasia was centuries old and had driven European exploration of the New World. Until the current century, the quickest route was via the Suez Canal in the Middle East.
The decrease in polar ice became a double-edged sword: creating newly-navigable routes and signaling the increase in water temperature that is detrimental to marine life and weather.
See previous milestones, here.
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