This Day In History – December 21 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… DECEMBER 21

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1891 – 1st game of basketball.

James Naismith, a physical education teacher, looking for a game that caused less injuries than football and could be played inside in the winter, came up with the idea. He started with a soccer style type of ball and two peach baskets. The baskets were attached to the railing of the balconies at each end of a gymnasium. The first rules stated the ball could only be advanced by throwing to another player; dribbling was a later evolution. Some rules have stayed the same, like striking another player, which is still forbidden. The first game had nine players on a team and ended with a score of 1-0. The novelty caught on and as more games were played a janitor had to be present with a ladder to retrieve the ball when a goal was scored. The first innovation was cutting a small hole in the bottom of the basket so the ball could be poked out with a broomstick. Then the bottoms of the peach baskets were cut out, speeding up the game considerably. It wasn’t until 1906 that the baskets in basketball were retired and replaced with backboards, metal hoops, and netting. At Naismith’s first game there were thirteen rules. Since that time the game has experienced continuous evolution and the rules have expanded accordingly. It hardly resembles the game James Naismith invented.

I suppose some changes were necessary, like getting rid of the need for a ladder. Dunking into a peach basket with a bottom just wouldn’t have the same effect.

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1988 – Lockerbie bombing.

Pan Am Flight 103 was 31,000 over Scotland when a bomb hidden in a cassette recorder exploded. The plane crashed into the town of Lockerbie killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. Passengers and crew from 21 countries were killed, including 190 Americans. The FBI, working with Scottish authorities, traced those responsible for the bombing to Libya. Two officers in Libya’s intelligence service were the suspects. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi turned them over and they were tried in a Scottish court. One was acquitted and the other, Megrahi, was found guilty of 270 counts of murder. The FBI believe the guilty man did not act alone and that others were involved, possibly even Gaddafi, although he denied knowledge. Megrahi had served less than ten years of his life sentence when he was released for compassionate reason, due to having prostrate cancer. Without admitting guilt, Libya agreed to pay compensation to the families of each victim. The negotiations included the lifting of economic sanctions against Libya. In 2003 the families received 8 million dollars each, minus legal fees of 2.5 million.

A horror story for most everyone involved, except of course the lawyers.

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1989 – VP Dan Quayle’s Christmas card misspelling.

The Vice President had sent out a family Christmas card with the word beacon spelled beakon. Neither staff nor the printer noticed the error and thirty thousand cards were delivered.

Hey, anybody can make an error.

Since it’s the season, I’d like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a hope for Peece on Erth.

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Birthdays:

1909 – George Ball.

Diplomat. Ball worked in the State Department from 1961 to 1966 and was a persistent voice opposing America’s involvement in South Vietnam. When President Kennedy sent the first contingent of 16,000 soldiers there, ostensibly as advisors to train the South Vietnamese army, Ball argued against it. He stated “Within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again.” JFK didn’t listen to him. When President Johnson initiated a bombing campaign North Vietnam he advised against it. LBJ didn’t listen. Ball stood alone in the administration in arguing against America’s escalation of the war. Nobody listened.

Ball was also critical of Israel and its policies toward Arab states. He was especially critical of the USS Liberty incident in which Israel wantonly attacked the American ship killing 34 sailors and wounding 171. (See my June 8th post.) Israel suffered little consequence for this action and Ball noted since they were not punished for the blatant murder of American sailors the lesson learned was they could get away with anything. He also argued about the political, financial and moral cost of the aid to Israel. Again to be ignored. Ball passed away in New York City in 1994.

A wise man. Our country would have been better off if more had listened to him.

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1926 – Joe Paterno.

Football coach. Paterno’s tenure at Penn State lasted from 1966 to 2011 during which time he was one of the nation’s most successful coaches. His teams won two national championships and played in 37 major bowl games, and in 2007 he was inducted into College Football Hall of Fame. His reputation was besmirched however by a child sexual abuse scandal that took place in the Penn State football program during the final years of his career. One of Paterno’s former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, had retired two years earlier but still had keys and access to the locker room. Sandusky was witnessed sexually abusing a ten year old boy in the Penn State locker room. The incident was reported to Paterno who in turn notified several of the school’s administrators. After that there was no action taken, no follow-up, and Sandusky continued his pattern of attacks on young boys until 2009. In 2011 he was charged with 52 counts of sexual assault.

Sandusky was sent to prison and an investigation by a former FBI director, Louis Freeh, concluded that Paterno had withheld information about the abuse. Paterno was fired as the coach of Penn State during the season of 2011. Students and alumni were outraged and an independent investigation, commissioned by his family, was critical of the Freeh report. Paterno died less than three months after his dismissal.   

Whether his firing was just or unjust it seems there was more outrage over that than what happened to dozens of young boys.

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1952 – Joaquin Andujar.

Major League pitcher. Andujar pitched in the big leagues from 1976 to 1988 compiling a 127-118 record. He was an All-Star four times and pitched in two World Series for the St. Louis Cardinal. A colorful and sometimes volatile player, Andujar created excitement whenever he was on the field. He also had a colorful relationship with the English language. Commenting on a strange play that had taken place he said you could sum up all of baseball in one word. When asked what that word was he replied “Youjustneverknow.”

That rivals Yogi Berra.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following websites:

OnThisDay.com

Wikipedia.org

FBI.gov

APNews.com

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

Lead-In Image (Hand and Ball) – Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash – Museu Nacional de Belas Artes – Avenida Rio Branco – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, Brasil

* James Naismith (video) – lilmikesf / YouTube.com

* George Ball (video) – Hôpital 43 / YouTube.com

* Joaquin Andujar (video) – Jomboy Media / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 3

December 4

December 5

* December 8

December 9

December 10

December 11

December 12

December 13

December 15

December 16

December 17

December 18

* December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

January 12

January 14

January 15

January 17

January 19

January 22

January 23

January 24

January 28

January 29

February 1

February 2

February 3

February 5

February 9

February 10

February 12

February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 22

February 25

February 28

February 29

March 2

March 4

March 6

March 9

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 22

March 23

March 27

March 28

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 4

April 6

April 9

April 11

April 13

April 16

April 18

April 21

April 22

April 23

April 26

April 28

April 29

May 1

May 2

* May 3

May 5

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 11

* May 13

May 16

May 17

May 22

May 24

May 26

May 27

* May 28

May 29

May 31

June 1

June 3

June 4

June 8

June 10

June 11

June 13

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 22

June 24

June 27

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 9

July 10

July 13

July 14

July 15

July 19

July 20

July 23

July 24

July 25

July 29

July 30

July 31

August 2

* August 3

August 6

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 13

August 16

August 17

August 19

August 21

August 23

August 24

August 25

August 28

August 29

August 31

September 2

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September 25

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September 30

October 1

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November 1

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November 18

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November 21

November 22

November 23

November 24

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November 27

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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