November 25th

Andrew Carnegie was born on this date in 1835. He died in 1919.

Until he was a septuagenarian, Andrew Carnegie believed that he was born in 1837. Then on a return visit to his native town in Scotland he learned that the date 1837 in the church records merely meant that the records were commenced in that year, and he was listed as a living child in the first census. He announced his correction of the date of his birth by clicking the news to his brother telegraphers on a miniature telegraph instrument at his plate at the dinner they were giving in his honor, supposing it to be his seventy-first when it was really his seventy-third birthday.

The New York Times

“The day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which were free for him to administer during life, will pass away ‘unwept, unhonored, and unsung,’ no matter to what use he leaves the dross which he cannot take with him. Of such as these the public verdict will be, ‘The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.'”

— Andrew Carnegie (1898)

Karl Benz, the inventor of the gasoline-powered automobile (1885), was born on this date in 1844.

Between 1885 and 1887, three versions of the three-wheeler were designed: the Model 1 which Benz donated to the Deutsches Museum in 1906, the Model 2 which was probably altered and rebuilt several times, and lastly the Model 3 with wood-spoked wheels which Bertha Benz took on the first long-distance journey in 1888.

By 1886 the existing production facilities could no longer cope with the insatiable demand for stationary engines and “Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik” moved to a larger factory building in Waldhofstrasse in which motor vehicle engines were manufactured until 1908. The appearance in 1890 of new partners, Friedrich von Fischer and Julius Ganß, marked the growth of “Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik” into Germany’s second-largest engine factory. In 1893 Karl Benz introduced the axle-pivot steering system into automobile construction and in 1896 he developed the “contra” engine which was to become the precursor to today’s horizontally opposed piston engine.

Between 1894 and 1901 the Benz “Velo” was built at Benz & Co. It was a reasonably priced, light automobile for two people which signaled the breakthrough to higher sales and, with total production of some 1200 units, can be legitimately described as the first series production car. As the turn of the century approached, Benz & Co. had grown into the world’s leading automotive manufacturer. In 1899 the firm was converted into a joint-stock company.

— Mercedes-Benz USA

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born on this date in 1881. He became Pope John XXIII in 1958 (and died in 1963).

Joseph Wood Krutch was born on this date in 1893. He graduated from the University of Tennessee and received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia. He became an author and lecturer and was drama critic for The Nation during the years 1924-1952. He wrote two criticially acclaimed biographies, Samuel Johnson (1944) and Henry David Thoreau (1948).

Krutch moved to Tucson in 1952 and turned his focus primarily to nature writing. Among his notable works were The Desert Year, The Voice of the Desert and The Great Chain of Life.

From The Voice of the Desert:

Here in the West, as in the country at large, a war more or less concealed under the guise of a “conflict of interests” rages between the “practical” conservationist and the defenders of the national parks and other public lands; between cattlemen and lumberers on the one hand, and the “sentimentalists” on the other. The pressure to allow the hunter, the rancher, or the woodcutter to invade the public domain is constant and the plea is always that we should “use” what is assumed to be useless unless it is adding to material welfare. But unless somebody teaches love, there can be no ultimate protection to what is lusted after. Without some “love of nature” for itself there is no possibility of solving “the problem of conservation.”

Joe DiMaggio was born on this date in 1914. He died in 1999.

DiMaggio Plaque

Joe DiMaggio was a cultural icon; he married Hollywood starlets Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Arnold, he was immortalized in Paul Simon’s hit song Mrs. Robinson, to a generation he was the face of Mister Coffee, and he was regarded as one of the greatest players who ever played the game. He was an American hero. Hall of Fame teammate Phil Rizzuto recalled “There was an aura about him. He walked like no one else walked. He did things so easily. He was immaculate in everything he did. Kings of State wanted to meet him and be with him. He carried himself so well. He could fit in any place in the world”.

Baseball Hall of Fame

JFK JrJohn F. Kennedy Jr. was born on this date in 1960. He died in 1999. The photo was taken on his third birthday.

November 20th

Today is the birthday

… of Don DeLillo. The winner of the National Book Award for fiction is 79 today. He won for White Noise and was also nominated for Underworld.

… of comedian Dick Smothers. The straight man of the duo is 76. (Tom is 78.)

… of Vice President Joe Biden. He’s 73.

… of Joe Walsh of The Eagles. He’s 68. Life’s been good to him so far.

I have a mansion forget the price
Ain’t never been there they tell me it’s nice
I live in hotels tear out the walls
I have accountants pay for it all

They say I’m crazy but I have a good time
I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime
Life’s been good to me so far

Walsh joined The Eagles in 1976. The first album with Walsh in the band was Hotel California, which says all you ever need to know about both The Eagles and Joe Walsh.

… of Bo Derek. She’s now five 10s and a 9.

Robert F. Kennedy might have been 90 today. He was assassinated at age 42.

Astronomer Edwin Hubble was born on this date in 1889.

During the past 100 years, astronomers have discovered quasars, pulsars, black holes and planets orbiting distant suns. But all these pale next to the discoveries Edwin Hubble made in a few remarkable years in the 1920s. At the time, most of his colleagues believed the Milky Way galaxy, a swirling collection of stars a few hundred thousand light-years across, made up the entire cosmos. But peering deep into space from the chilly summit of Mount Wilson, in Southern California, Hubble realized that the Milky Way is just one of millions of galaxies that dot an incomparably larger setting.

Hubble went on to trump even that achievement by showing that this galaxy-studded cosmos is expanding — inflating majestically like an unimaginably gigantic balloon — a finding that prompted Albert Einstein to acknowledge and retract what he called “the greatest blunder of my life.” Hubble did nothing less, in short, than invent the idea of the universe and then provide the first evidence for the Big Bang theory, which describes the birth and evolution of the universe. He discovered the cosmos, and in doing so founded the science of cosmology.

Source: TIME 100: Edwin Hubble

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was born on this date in 1866. His name, misspelled, came from the place and battle in Georgia (Kennesaw Mountain) where his father fought and lost a leg for the Union. Landis was appointed Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 — and continued to serve for the first few months after he became the first Commissioner of Baseball in 1920. He was commissioner for 24 years.

It was Landis that cleaned up the gambling that had led to the Black Sox scandal. It was also Landis who kept baseball segregated. That dam broke only after his death in November 1944. Like many, Landis held the job far too long — long enough to go from savior to obstacle.

Best Line of the Day

Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?

Captain Ramius: I suppose.

Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?

Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.

The Hunt for Red October

Hey, We Can All Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Free Now

Larry King, 82.
Dick Cavett. He’s 79.
Ted Turner, 77.
Ann Curry. She’s 59.
Jodie Foster, 53.

Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella was born on November 19, 1921.

A star with both the bat and glove, Roy Campanella was agile behind the plate, had a rifle arm and was an expert at handling pitchers. He was named National League MVP three times, including a 1953 selection when he set single-season records for catchers with 41 homers and a National League best 142 RBI. Before signing with the Dodgers, the broad-shouldered receiver starred with the Negro National Leagues’ Baltimore Elite Giants for seven seasons. His career was cut short by a tragic auto accident prior to the 1958 season.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Bandleader and trombonist Tommy Dorsey was born on November 19, 1905.

Though he might have been ranked second at any given moment to Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, or Harry James, Tommy Dorsey was overall the most popular bandleader of the swing era that lasted from 1935 to 1945. His remarkably melodic trombone playing was the signature sound of his orchestra, but he successfully straddled the hot and sweet styles of swing with a mix of ballads and novelty songs. He provided showcases to vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, and Jo Stafford, and he employed inventive arrangers such as Sy Oliver and Bill Finegan. [Dorsey] was the biggest-selling artist in the history of RCA Victor Records, one of the major labels, until the arrival of Elvis Presley, who was first given national exposure on the 1950s television show [Tommy Dorsey] hosted with his brother Jimmy.

Evangelist Billy Sunday was born on November 19, 1862. Sunday played professional baseball for the Chicago White Stockings, Pittsburgh Alleghenies and Philadelphia Phillies 1883-1890. Following a conversion in 1886, Sunday became the most influential preacher of the era.

In the early 1900s, Billy Sunday sold what was then a unique brand of muscular, testosterone-laden Christianity.

Today, ministers in some of the country’s largest churches preach in shirtsleeves and talk about God in terms of football or golf. Billy Sunday was one of the first to do this. He was a professional baseball player turned tent preacher who became the richest and most influential preacher of his time.
. . .

Sunday, says Martin, was “one of the most acrobatic evangelists of the age.” One newspaper columnist at the time estimated that Sunday traveled about a mile during each sermon.

NPR : Billy Sunday, Man of God

“I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fist less and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!”

James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, was born on this date in 1831. He was assassinated two months before his 50th birthday.

But James A. Garfield – president for less than four months before he was shot is 1881 – is for most Americans an historical footnote.

And that, says author Candice Millard, is a great shame.

“He was without question one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president,” she told Rocca. “He was absolutely brilliant. He was born into incredible poverty – the last of the ‘log cabin presidents.’ His father died before he was two years old, so to put himself through college his first year, he was a janitor and a carpenter. By his second year they made him assistant professor of literature and ancient languages.

“By the time he was 26 he was his college’s president. He had just an off-the-charts mind.”

His loss is all the more heartbreaking because Garfield (Millard writes in a new book) didn’t need to die – even after he was shot.

How Doctors Killed President Garfield, CBS News, 2012

Millard’s Destiny of the Republic about Garfield’s death is first-rate, an excellent read.