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From little league to Pete Rose, this week in history focuses on baseball landmarks. In addition, learn about the Viking I launch to Mars, Hawaii’s statehood, and more!
August 20, 1975: Viking I Launched to Mars
On August 20, 1975, the United States launched the Viking I spacecraft. At a total cost of a billion dollars, Viking’s mission was to explore the surface of Mars. It took nearly a year to reach the Red Planet. The spacecraft was designed to separate into an orbiter and a landing craft, which successfully touched down on the surface of Mars on July 20, 1976 and remained active for six years before shutting down.
Viking I was the first human spacecraft to land on Mars. Both the orbiter and lander took tens of thousands of photos, including the famous “Face on Mars” picture that resembles a humanoid face carved into a rock. The lander took numerous soil samples and analyzed them in an unmanned laboratory built into the craft. Other than studying soil and atmosphere compositions and monitoring weather patterns, the Viking lander searched soil samples for signs of biological life on Mars, past or present. Although many tests were inconclusive, most returned negative results.
August 21-23, 1947: First Little League World Series
The first Little League World Series took place in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on August 21-23, 1947. Little League was started in Williamsport with three teams in 1939 and grew exponentially from there. The first World Series featured 17 teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Over 2 million kids play Little League baseball and softball every year. Today, their annual World Series includes tournaments between local leagues, then state-level and regional tournaments across the country. Ten teams from the United States play in the final tournament in Williamsport, plus teams representing eight international regions compete at Williamsport.
August 21, 1959: Hawaii Becomes the 50th State
With the current tragedy in Hawaii, we remember it became the 50th state in the union this week in 1959. Originally populated by Polynesian peoples over a thousand years ago, Hawaii was colonized in the mid-1800s by American sugarcane growers. It became an official U.S. territory after the Spanish-American War in 1898. Following a referendum in 1959 where 93 percent of Hawaiians voted for statehood, President Eisenhower signed a proclamation on August 21, 1959, making Hawaii the last state to date to be admitted into the union.
August 21, 1961: Jomo Kenyatta Freed from Prison
On August 21, 1961, Jomo Kenyatta, a leader of the Kenya independence movement, was freed from a British colonial prison where he had spent the previous nine years. In 1963, Kenya achieved independence and Kenyatta became prime minister. He brought stability to Kenya while defending Western interests over his 15 years as the country’s leader.
Kenyatta began working for the rights of his countrymen in the 1920s. He went to England in 1929 to advocate for Kenyan rights, then stayed in Europe in the 1930s to receive a formal education and write a book about the plight of Kenyans. After WWII, he returned to Kenya and organized a movement for free democratic rule. In 1952, another group began a guerilla war against the British colonial government. Despite his organization’s devotion to non-violent resistance, Kenyatta was accused of leading the violent group, arrested, and sent to prison. Over the following years, England began steering Kenya towards self-rule. After Kenyatta was released, he traveled to London in 1962 and negotiated a treaty for Kenyan independence.
August 22, 1989: Nolan Ryan Strikes Out Number 5,000
Nolan Ryan, Major League Baseball’s all-time strikeout leader, struck out his 5,000th batter on August 22, 1989. He would retire in 1993 with 5,714 strikeouts, 900 more than the number-two strikeout pitcher of all-time, Randy Johnson. Today, Ryan is considered one of the greatest pitchers ever with 324 wins, 7 no-hitters, and a member of the infamous 1969 Miracle Mets. He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
August 23, 1989: Pete Rose Kicked Out of Baseball
One day after Nolan Ryan struck out his 5,000th batter, another baseball icon made history when Pete Rose was banned for life from baseball. Rose was known as a gambler, and in 1989, as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he was accused of not only betting on baseball but betting on his own team. Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance gambling policy after players betting on their own games and taking cash payments from organized criminals to throw games routinely tarnished the reputation of the sport in the early 1900s. To this day, Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, winner of 3 World Series and 3 batting titles, remains banned from the game and excluded from the Hall of Fame.
August 25, 1944: Paris Liberated from Nazis
On August 25, 1944, the city of Paris was liberated after four years of Nazi occupation. Hero of France and leader of the Free French Resistance, General Charles De Gaulle, led an armored division into the city alongside the United States 4th Infantry Division. As the Allies approached Paris, citizens staged a general strike and the Resistance took to the streets to destabilize the Nazi fortifications from within.
The Nazi commander in Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, was ordered by Hitler to burn down the entire city rather than surrender it to Allied forces. But Choltitz did not want to go down in history as the man who destroyed the City of Lights. He defied Hitler’s orders and surrendered Paris after the Nazi defenses broke and most of the 20,000 soldiers tasked with defending her surrendered or fled.
August 26, 1939: First Televised Baseball Game
The first televised major league baseball game happened on August 26, 1939. The broadcast game was played on Ebbets Field between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. Few people actually owned a television set in 1939; the televised game was part of the 1939 World’s Fair, taking place in New York City at the same time. The experiment was a success. Broadcasts of the World Series began in 1947 and regular season games in 1953. Eventually, baseball on television became the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.
Your obscure holidays of the week:
This week we celebrate Internet Self-Care Day, a day to use all the tools on the Internet to find better ways of taking care of ourselves. Ride the Wind Day recognizes humanity’s mastering of flight and the freedom of the open skies. It celebrates the fact that we can do anything we put our minds to and the benefits of achieving all we are capable of.
Strange Music Day is a day to expand our horizons by listening to new types of music, from genres we typically don’t hear to the bizarre and strange. Iconic Restaurants Day recognizes the eating establishments and their staff that impact our daily lives, including nationwide chains like Mcdonald’s and Red Lobster, restaurants closed forever like Howard Johnsons, and the local mom-and-pop establishments that symbolize our towns.
August 20: World Mosquito Day, Radio Day
August 21: Internet Self-Care Day, Poet’s Day, Senior Citizen’s Day, Spumoni Day
August 22: Be an Angel Day, Southern Hemisphere Hoodie Hoo Day, Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, Never Been Better Day, Tooth Fairy Day, Chinese Valentine’s Day / Daughter’s Day
August 23: Find Your Inner Nerd Day, Cuban Sandwich Day, Ride the Wind Day, Valentino Day
August 24: Strange Music Day, Waffle Iron Day, Pluto Demoted Day, Knife Day, Iconic American Restaurants Day, Vesuvius Day
August 25: Kiss and Make-Up Day, Second-Hand Wardrobe Day, Whiskey Sour Day, Banana Split Day
August 26: Bat Night, Webmistress Day, Dog Day, Toilet Paper Day, Women’s Equality Day