Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

… was authorized on this date in 1937.

Cape Hatteras

The area now known as Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a long and rich heritage. The islands that make up the seashore have been home to Native Americans, farmers, watermen, slaves, lighthouse keepers, surfmen, and many others who continue to shape the heritage of the area. The people have witnessed events that include hurricanes, the death of Blackbeard the pirate, Civil War battles, the construction of its now famous lighthouses, the birth of the USCG in the lifesaving stations, hundreds of shipwrecks, Billy Mitchell’s test bombings, Reginald Fessenden’s first radio broadcasts, the building of dunes by the CCC, scientific strides in weather forecasting, u-boat attacks, and much more.


Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s first national seashore, was established to preserve significant segments of unspoiled barrier islands along North Carolina’s stretch of the Atlantic Coast. Barrier islands are narrow, low-lying, dynamic landforms which parallel ocean coasts, are separated from the mainland, and are constantly moving and reshaping in response to storms, ocean currents, sea level changes, and wave and wind action. These processes continue to influence the islands today through the processes of erosion and accretion of the shoreline; overwash across the islands; and the formation, migration, and closure of the inlets.

National Park Service


Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue — released 55 years ago today (August 17, 1959) —

… is a nearly unique thing in music or any other creative realm: a huge hit—the best-selling jazz album of all time—and the spearhead of an artistic revolution. Everyone, even people who say they don’t like jazz, likes Kind of Blue. It’s cool, romantic, melancholic, and gorgeously melodic. But why do critics regard it as one of the best jazz albums ever made? What is it about Kind of Blue that makes it not just pleasant but important?

Fred Kaplan tells us Why Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is so great.

The sextet consisted of Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and Bill Evans (piano). Wynton Kelly replaced Evans on “Freddie Freeloader.”

Everyone — every one — should own this album (if you own it, you will listen to it). It rarely costs more than $10, and you can get it from iTunes right now for $6.99.

Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence.” — allmusic

To this day Kind of Blue sells 5,000 copies a week.


Hardball

Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit by a pitch thrown by Yankees pitcher Carl Mays at the Polo Grounds on this date in 1920. Chapman apparently never saw the pitch. It hit his head hard enough that Mays thought it had hit the bat; the pitcher fielded the carom and tossed it to first for the presumed out. Chapman took a few steps and collapsed (some reports say he collapsed immediately). He died the next day.

The tragedy caused Major League Baseball to direct umpires to replace the baseball whenever it became dirty. The spitball was outlawed as well, partially in response to Chapman’s death. Previously pitchers dirtied every ball as soon as it was put in play, with dirt, tar, tobacco juice, petroleum jelly. A sticky, dirty off-balance ball could be thrown contrary to the batters expectations — and was hard to see.

Batting helmets were not made mandatory until 1971, though some teams adopted them earlier. Older players could choose not to wear a helmet. The last was in 1979.

On April 12, 1909, Philadelphia Athletics catcher Michael Riley “Doc” Powers crashed into the wall chasing a pop up. He died of of peritonitis as a result of the surgeries two weeks later. And he himself was a physician. It was opening day.

Those are the only two fatalities from on-field action in Major League history.

I attended a game, probably in 1957. Kansas City vs. Detroit at Briggs (later Tiger) Stadium. If I’ve found the right game, it was Jim Bunning vs. Don Larsen. I do remember Vic Power coming to the plate as a pinch hitter and declining a batting helmet. Bunning made him reconsider quickly however, and Power made a great show of going to the dugout and putting on a helmet.


Little Sure Shot

Annie Oakley 1902

… was born 154 years ago today (1860).

As the star attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, she thrilled audiences around the world with her daring shooting feats. Her act helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanished, mythical world of the American West. Over time she became an American legend — the loud, brassy, cocksure shooter celebrated in the musical “Annie Get Your Gun.” But that legend had little to do with the real Annie Oakley. Although famous as a Western sharpshooter, Oakley lived her entire life east of the Mississippi. A champion in a man’s sport, she forever changed ideas about the abilities of women, yet she opposed female suffrage. Her fame and fortune came from her skill with guns, yet she was a Quaker.

American Experience | Annie Oakley | PBS

Larry McMurtry’s excellent essay “Inventing the West” from the August 2000 issue of The New York Review of Books tells us about this famous performer.

Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Moses—or Mosey) grew up poor in rural Ohio, shot game to feed her family, shot game to sell, was pressed into a shooting contest with a touring sharpshooter named Frank Butler, beat him, married him, stayed with him for fifty years, and died three weeks before he did in 1926.

When Annie Oakley and Frank Butler offered themselves to Cody the Colonel was dubious. His fortunes were at a low ebb, and shooting acts abounded. But he gave Annie Oakley a chance. She walked out in Louisville before 17,000 people and was hired immediately. Nate Salsbury, Cody’s tight-fisted manager, who did not spend lavishly and who rarely highlighted performers, happened to watch Annie rehearse and promptly ordered seven thousand dollars’ worth of posters and billboard art.

Annie Oakley more than justified the expense. Sitting Bull, normally a taciturn fellow, saw her shoot in Minnesota and could not contain himself. Watanya cicilia, he called her, his Little Sure Shot. Small, reserved, Quakerish, she seemed to live on the lemonade Buffalo Bill dispensed free to all hands. In London she demolished protocol by shaking hands with Princess Alexandra. She shook hands with Alexandra’s husband, the Prince of Wales, too, though, like his mother the Queen, she strongly disapproved of his behavior with the ladies. In France the Parisians were glacially indifferent to buffalo, Indians, cowboys, and Cody—Annie Oakley melted them so thoroughly that she had to go through her act five times before she could escape. In Germany she likened Bismarck to a mastiff.

In 1901 she was almost killed in a train wreck. Annie claimed that it was the wreck that caused her long auburn hair to turn white overnight; skeptics said her hair turned white because she left it in hot water too long while at a spa. She continued to shoot into the 1920s. In her last years she looked rather like Nancy Astor. Will Rogers visited her not long before her death and pronounced her the perfect woman. Probably not until Billie Jean King and the rise of women’s tennis had a female outdoor performer held the attention of so many people. She became part of the “invention” that is the West by winning her way with a gun: a man’s thing, the very thing, in fact, that had won the West itself.

Annie was her nickname as a child. Oakley was a stage name. Offstage she referred to herself as Mrs. Frank Butler.

Photo taken 1902 when Oakley was 42. Click image for larger version.


Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)

… was designated a national historical monument on this date in 1935. It became a national historical park in 1954.

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation. The National Park encompasses approximately 1800 acres of rolling hills in rural central Virginia. The site includes the McLean home (surrender site) and the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, the former county seat for Appomattox County. The site also has the home and burial place of Joel Sweeney – the popularizer of the modern five string banjo. There are twenty seven original 19th century structures on the site.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Photo shows two brothers, often at war, making peace with a hug outside the McLean home in Appomattox Court House. It’s not known whether Grant and Lee hugged.


Bambi

… premiered 72 years ago today.

Is there a sadder movie ever than this Disney classic?

Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review when Bambi was released yet again in 1988. He starts generally positive:

In the annals of the great heartbreaking moments in the movies, the death of Bambi’s mother ranks right up there with the chaining of Dumbo’s mother and the moment when E. T. seems certainly dead. These are movie moments that provide a rite of passage for children of a certain age: You send them in as kids, and they come out as sadder and wiser preteenagers.

And there are other moments in the movie almost as momentous. “Bambi” exists alone in the Disney canon. It is not an adventure and not a “cartoon,” but an animated feature that describes with surprising seriousness the birth and growth of a young deer. Everybody remembers the cute early moments when Bambi can’t find his footing and keeps tripping over his own shadow. Those scenes are among the most charming the Disney animators ever drew.

But then he questions the whole effort:

Hey, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist here, but if you really stop to think about it, “Bambi” is a parable of sexism, nihilism and despair, portraying absentee fathers and passive mothers in a world of death and violence. I know the movie’s a perennial clasic, seen by every generation, remembered long after other movies have been forgotten. But I am not sure it’s a good experience for children – especially young and impressionable ones.


Ben Hogan

… was born 102 years ago today. Hogan was the great golfer of mid-century, overcoming injuries from a severe, near-fatal auto accident. Hogan won four U.S. Opens, two Masters, two PGAs and one British Open between 1946-53.

At some point NewMexiKen read a story about Hogan playing in a pro-am. The duffer with him kept asking how he, Hogan, did this and how he did that, as if the amateur could match Hogan’s skills if only he used the right club. Finally, after a wonderful chip shot, the amateur asked Hogan which club he had used. That was too much. Hogan proceeded to pull out every club in his bag and make perfect chip shots onto the green with each.

James Dodson’s is a good biography of Hogan.