Milestones: Tuesday, October 17, 2023
ONGOING CONFLICT — The Arab-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Oct. 17, 1973, announced it would cut oil exports to the United States and other nations that provided military aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War that had broken out on Oct. 6, the holiest day in the Jewish liturgical calendar. OPEC planned to reduced exports by 5% every month until Israel met its demand to evacuate the territories occupied in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Two months later, OPEC imposed a full oil embargo against the United States and several other countries, triggering a serious energy crisis in the United States and other nations dependent on foreign oil.
OPEC was founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela. For the first decade of its existence, OPEC had little impact on the price of oil, but by the early 1970s an increase in demand and the decline of U.S. oil production gave it more clout. Eventually, the United States and other countries increased their oil production, lessening the dependence on OPEC nations.
NOT THE BASEBALL TEAM — Texans on Oct. 17, 1835, approved a resolution to create the Texas Rangers, but they wouldn’t be hitting home runs. These Texas Rangers were a corps of armed and mounted lawmen designed to “range and guard the frontier between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers.” The Texans believed they needed a force of armed men to defend the isolated frontiers of what was then called the Lone Star Republic against Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Ana and against the Native Americans. A cavalry of civilians, the Rangers furnished their own horses and weapons. After they won their revolution against Mexico, Texans decided to keep the Rangers active.
The precursor to the Rangers was a cavalry of 10 men from his colony that Stephen F. Austin had organized some 12 years earlier, in 1823. He paid these men from his own pocket. The Rangers were reorganized and officially recognized with the 1835 resolution.
NAILED FOR TAX EVASION, NOT MURDER — Notorious gangster Al Capone met his downfall on Oct. 17, 1931, when he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and was fined $80,000. The Brooklyn native, whose full name was Alphonse Gabriel Capone, had already gotten into trouble as a youth, being expelled from school at age 14 and earning the moniker “Scarface” after he was slashed during a fight. Young Capone took easily to a life of liquor-smuggling, profiting greatly from Prohibition; and he also broke into the prostitution and gambling rackets; proving so talented in these areas that he was soon deputized to run crime boss Johnny Torrio’s enterprises. Soon Capone topped the F.B.I.’s “Most Wanted” list. His nemeses were federal agent Elliot Ness and his team of officers whose sterling reputation as “The Untouchables” came from the fact that they couldn’t be corrupted. Ultimately, they got him on tax evasion charges rather than for bootlegging or his “hits.”
Capone at one point worked as a bouncer and bartender at the Harvard Inn, a Coney Island bar owned by mobster Frankie Yale.
‘WE WILL ROCK YOU’ — GAME 3 OF THE 1989 WORLD SERIES WOULD PROVE DRAMATIC, BUT NOT FOR THE HOME RUNS. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked northern California just after 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1989, just before the start of the game between San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park, with the cameras already primed on the ballpark. According to some reports, the magnitude was higher: 7.1, with the quake centered near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The stadium withstood the quake, which was captured live on camera. However, the rest of the city was less fortunate. The quake killed 67 people, injured more than 3,700 and caused about $5 billion in damages. It also postponed the World Series for 10 days.
The San Francisco Giants, in a brief moment of levity, broadcast Queen’s hit song, “We Will Rock You” into the stadium. However, the toll of the quake soon weighed on the city. When the Giants finally played World 3 and captured the World Series title in just four games, their victory seemed anticlimactic in comparison.
ROUTING THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE — SERBIA AND GREECE DECLARED WAR ON THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE on Oct. 17, 1912, beginning the First Balkan War. Their ally in the Balkan region, Montenegro, had already done so nine days earlier. At the time, the Ottoman Empire encompassed a number of eastern European countries, including Bulgaria. Austria-Hungary had gotten into the fray, urging the involved regions — including Bosnia-Herzegovina — to declare independence. Complicating the matter was the fact that Serbia wanted the Bosnia-Herzegovina territory for itself on the grounds that they shared a Slavic language and heritage. Czarist Russia, an ally of Serbia, also got involved.
The world was surprised when the Balkan forces easily routed the Ottoman Army; but Turkey at the time was distracted. Two months later, the four victorious Balkan powers partitioned Macedonia, even though that area was the first to rebel. Bulgaria, which felt cheated out of the land rewards, shocked the world and turned against its two former allies, leading to the Second Balkan War.
FAMOUS HEIGHTS RESIDENT — PLAYWRIGHT ARTHUR MILLER, BORN Oct. 17, 1915, began writing dramas in college, published short stories and novels, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for “Death of a Salesman,” now a mainstay of American literature. “Death of a Salesman” also won two Tony Awards — one in 1949, and again 50 years later for “Best Revival.” Miller’s play “The Crucible,” about the Salem witch trials, also won a Tony Award. Miller won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Although born in Manhattan, Miller was raised in Midwood and, during the prime of his career, lived at several residences in Brooklyn Heights: 62 Montague St., 18 Schermerhorn St., 31 Grace Court and 155 Willow St.
Miller’s life also became a focal point of research for St. Francis College Professor Stephen Marino, who is the editor of the Arthur Miller Journal, according to a 2016 New York Times article on the celebrated playwright.
See previous milestones, here.
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