The 26th of January

Cartoonist Jules Feiffer is 88 today.

Bob Uecker is 82. Uecker received the Baseball Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters in 2003.

College of William and Mary alum Scott Glenn is 76 today.

Activist and author Angela Davis is 73.

Lucinda Williams is 64.

Ellen DeGeneres is 59.

Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, is 56. Gretsky’s number, 99, was retired by the league.

Paul Newman was born 92 years ago today (1925). Newman was nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar eight times, winning for The Color of Money in 1986, but not for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Absence of Malice, The Verdict, or Nobody’s Fool. He was also nominated for the Best Supporting Actor for Road to Perdition at age 78.

Akio Morita was born on January 26th in 1921. He was a co-founder of Sony.

Jimmy Van Heusen was born 104 years ago today. He won four Oscars for best song: with lyricist Johnny Burke, “Swinging on a Star” and with lyricist Sammy Cahn, “All the Way,” “High Hopes” and “Call Me Irresponsible.”

Maria Augusta Kutschera was born on this date in 1905. In 1927 she married George Ludwig von Trapp. Documentation indicates she was in her six month when they married. I don’t remember that part in the movie. (In addition to his seven children, they had three.)

The most overrated — especially by himself — person in American history was born on this date in 1880. That’s Douglas MacArthur.

Julia Morgan was born in San Francisco on January 26, 1872.

Miss Morgan was one of the first women to graduate from University of California at Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering. During her tenure at Berkeley, Morgan developed a keen interest in architecture which is thought to have been fostered by her mother’s cousin, Pierre Le Brun, who designed the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower in New York City. At Berkeley one of her instructors, Bernard Maybeck, encouraged her to pursue her architectural studies in Paris at the Ecole Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts.

Arriving in Paris in 1896, she was initially refused admission because the Ecole had never before admitted a woman. After a two-year wait, Julia Morgan gained entrance to the prestigious program and became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture. While in Paris, Morgan also found a mentor in her professor, Bernard Chaussemiche, for whom she worked as a drafter.

Soon after her graduation from the Ecole, Julia Morgan returned to her native San Francisco and began working for architect John Galen Howard. At the time Howard was the supervising architect of the University of California’s Master Plan, the commission of which he won by default from Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Morgan worked on the Master Plan drawing the elevations and designing the decorative details for the Mining Building built in memory of George Hearst. During this time Morgan also designed the Hearst Greek Theater on the Berkeley campus.

Over the course of the next 28 years, Morgan supervised nearly every aspect of construction at Hearst Castle including the purchase of everything from Spanish antiquities to Icelandic Moss to reindeer for the Castle’s zoo. She personally designed most of the structures, grounds, pools, animal shelters and workers’ camp down to the minutest detail. Additionally, Morgan worked closely with Hearst to integrate his vast art collection into the structures and grounds at San Simeon. She also worked on projects for Hearst’s other properties including Jolon, Wyntoon, Babicore, the “Hopi” residence at the Grand Canyon, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Memorial Gymnasium at Berkeley, the Los Angeles Examiner Building, several of his Beverly Hills residences and Marion Davies’ beach house in Santa Monica.

Hearst Castle

Take a look.

57 years ago today Danny Heater scored 135 points for Burnsville (West Virginia) High School (against Widen HS). It is still the record by one player in any sanctioned game at any level. He had 50 at the half. He was 53 for 70 from the field (all two pointers, of course) and 29 of 41 from the line. He also had 32 rebounds and 7 assists. He was just 6-feet-0.

Albert Einstein

… died 61 years ago today, April 18, 1955.

My office was a block from this statue for several years. On occasion I would walk over and visit Einstein. I didn’t learn any physics but I always felt smarter.

The statue is by sculptor Robert Berks, known also for his bust of JFK at the Kennedy Center. Einstein was dedicated in 1979 at the National Academy of Sciences, 22nd and Constitution in Washington.

I took the photo in 2014.


Benjamin Franklin

… died in Philadelphia on April 17th in 1790. He was 84.

In his twenties Franklin had written an epitaph for himself:

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer;
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost:
For it will, (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author.

By the age of 84 he wished for something simpler. The marble over his grave simply reads: Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.

Information from Walter Isaacson’s superb biography of Franklin.

February Sixth

Babe Ruth was born on this date in 1895.

Ronald Reagan was born on this date in 1911.

It should be a friggin’ holiday. No silly, for Ruth.

Aaron Burr, the first vice president known to have shot someone, was born on this date in 1756.

Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger and singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, was born on February 6th, 1914.

Today is also the birthday

… of Mike Farrell, 77.

… of Tom Brokaw. He’s 76.

… of Fabian (Forte), now 73.

and of Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 today!

Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945. He might have been 71 today. He died of cancer at age 36.

January 25th

One of the most important songwriters of the 20th century, Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was born on January 25, 1927. The Brazilian was the primary force behind bossa nova and was especially influential in the U.S., most notably for “The Girl from Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema)” which he composed. Others include “Corcovado” (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars), “Desafinado” (Slightly Out of Tune) and “Samba de Uma Nota Só” (One Note Samba). Jobim died in 1994.

Pro Football Hall of Fame member Lou Groza was born on January 25, 1924. He played for Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns (1946-1959, 1961-1967). How good was Groza? The award for best college place kicker each years is the Lou Groza Award. Groza died in 2000.

William Earnest “Ernie” Harwell was born 98 years ago today. Harwell broadcast baseball games from 1948-2002, primarily in Detroit (1960-1991, 1993-2002). For decades he was one of the best things about Detroit. Harwell died in 2010. In 1981, Harwell, was recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, just the fifth announcer so honored.

Harwell made his major league debut in 1948 after becoming the only broadcaster who ever figured in a baseball trade. Earl Mann, President of the Atlanta Crackers, agreed to let him go to Brooklyn if Branch Rickey would send Montreal catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta to manage the club. Harwell also worked for the New York Giants and for the Baltimore Orioles before coming to Detroit in 1960. . . .

Baseball Hall of Fame

Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25th in 1882. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912.

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

Woolf’s note to her husband just before she drowned herself in 1941.

Charles Curtis was born in Kansas on this date in 1860. Curtis was the 31st vice president of the United States, serving under President Herbert Hoover, 1929-1933. Curtis is the first person with non-European ancestry to ever serve as President or Vice President. His mother was part Kansa or Kaw, Osage and Potawatomi and part French. Curtis had a one-eighth Indian blood quantum.

George Edward Pickett was born on this date in 1825. He was 59th out of 59 in the Class of 1846 class at West Point, but was a hero at the Battle of Chapultepec in September 1847. On July 3, 1863, Maj. Gen. Pickett was one of three Confederate generals under Gen. James Longstreet who led their men against the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Pickett’s division suffered over 50% casualties. All three of Pickett’s brigade commanders and all 13 of his regimental commanders were casualties. Pickett himself lived until 1875.

Robert Burns was born on this date 256 years ago.

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want-O do Thou grant
This one request of mine!-
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

Etta James (1938-2012) would have been 78 today. Dean Jones (1931-2015) would have been 85.

Alicia Keys (Alicia Augello Cook) is 35. Carl Eller is 74.

The Penultimate Day of 2015

. . . is the birthday

… of Russ Tamblyn. Riff, “a Jet to his dying day,” is 81.

… of Sandy Koufax. The most dominant pitcher in the game in the early 1960s — the man who threw four no-hitters including a perfect game — is 80.

… of Noel Paul Stookey. Paul of Peter, Paul & Mary is 78.

… of James Burrows. The director of “Taxi,” “Cheers” and “Will and Grace” is 75.

… of Fred Ward. The actor (Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff and Earl Bassett in the greatest movie ever, Tremors) is 73.

… of Monkees Michael Nesmith (73) and Davy Jones, who died in 2012; he would have been 70 today.

… of Patti Smith. Punk rock’s poet laureate is 69.

… of Jeff Lynne. Electric Light Orchestra, Traveling Wilburys, The Move, and The Idle Race — 68 today.

… of Meredith Vieira, 62 today, and Matt Lauer, 58 today.

… of Tracey Ullman. She’s 56.

… of Eldrick Woods. Tiger is 40.

… of LeBron James. He’s 31 today.

The Genius Among Geniuses, Alfred Einstein, was born on December 30, 1880.

And a genius of another kind, Bo Diddley was born on this date in 1928. (He died in 2008.)

Music historian Robert Palmer has described Bo Diddley as “one of the most original and fertile rhythmic intelligences of our time.” He will forever be known as the creator of the “Bo Diddley beat,” one of the cornerstone rhythms of rock and roll. He employed it in his namesake song, “Bo Diddley,” as well as other primal rockers like “Mona.” This distinctive African-based rhythm pattern (which goes bomp bomp bomp bomp-bomp) was picked up from Diddley by other artists and has been a distinctive and recurring element in rock and roll through the decades.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Yay, Mom

“Her father hadn’t wanted her to be a writer; he thought that in order to make it as a successful Latina, she should aim to be a television news weather girl. But her mom encouraged her to read and write, took her to the library, didn’t make her learn how to cook, and didn’t interrupt her studying or reading to make her do chores.”

The Writer’s Almanac in 2009 describing Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, more than two million copies sold. Cisneros is also the author of Caramelo and is 61 today. She was the only daughter among seven children.