This Day in History – March 24 – 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… MARCH 24

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1962 – Emile Griffith versus Benny “The Kid” Paret.

A boxing match for the welterweight championship of the world. This was their third fight with each man having won once. The two men didn’t like each other and at the weigh-in the morning of the fight Paret had addressed Griffith with a homosexual slur. Griffith then refused to have his picture taken with Paret. Years later, Griffith revealed he was bisexual. The fight was a brawl with Paret knocking Griffith down in the 6th round. In the 12th round Griffith stunned Paret with two hard punches. He backed him into the ropes and, with Paret helpless, continued punching. For whatever reason the referee did not intervene as Griffith held Paret upright against the ropes with his left hand and pummeled Paret with 29 straight right hand punches to the head. Finally the referee stepped in and the unconscious Paret fell to the canvas. Taken to a hospital he never regained consciousness, and died ten days later.

That fight took place on a Saturday night. I was stationed at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland and earlier that week had seen a notice on a bulletin board about a trip to New York City. The National Invitational Tournament semifinals were being held in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. This was back when the N.I.T tournament was more prestigious than the NCAA in college basketball. A bus had been chartered to go from Bainbridge to the games. I quickly signed up. None of my friends did but on the ride up to New York City I fell in with a group of other young sailors. I was excited, my first trip to NYC and Madison Square Garden. I had heard about that storied venue my whole life. I was also more than a little intimidated. I remember the bus going over a bridge and being frightened. I couldn’t believe how big, how expansive, how high over the water the bridge was. Remember, this was an eighteen-year-old kid from a small farm town.

I don’t recall anything about the games. What I do remember is being seated high up in the cheap seats in the Garden and looking down on the student sections, so full of enthusiasm and excitement. We were clad in our dress blues, their uniforms tended toward crewneck sweaters and slacks. There was also a presence of pretty co-eds in their midst. We belonged to a different world and sat and watched in silence. After the games we stood on the sidewalk outside the arena and pondered what to do next. There were five of us and one guy noticed a poster for a boxing match that night. A championship fight between Emile Griffith and Benny “The Kid” Paret. We discussed whether we should buy tickets or not. Well, they discussed. I kept quiet and was willing to go along with whatever the group decided. We passed on buying tickets for the fight. Everyone, including myself, felt we had been sitting on our butts in an arena long enough and as long as we were in New York we should look around.

By the middle of the evening it seemed a bad decision. The night was chilly with a harsh wind blowing. We were too young to get into bars so that wasn’t an option. We went to a movie theater to watch what we thought was a “skin flick” but turned out to be a foreign film. We left before it was over, disappointed and confused. Totally lost, I had no idea where I was and just tailed along behind the others. A couple of the guys were from big cities and they led the way. About the only thing I remember is being at Rockefeller Center and watching the ice skaters. Again we were looking at a different world that played no part in our lives. The bus ride back to Bainbridge was quiet with a sense of disappointment. I think most had hoped for more excitement from the trip.

Sunday mornings were about the only time peace and quiet made inroads into the noisy bustle and hassle of naval life. That Sunday morning was no exception. I bought a newspaper and sat at a table in the barracks. Not wanting to stand in line at the chow hall I probably had some junk food from vending machines. As has been my wont most of my life I turned to the sports section first. I read about the savage end to the Griffith/Paret fight. Ten days later Paret died. I had come so close to bearing witness to horrible history. Perhaps I felt some disappointment at the time at being so close and missing it, given the cold boredom of our night in New York. Now however I’m glad I wasn’t there. Watching a man being beaten to death is not a memory I would have wanted to carry around my whole life.

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1989 – Exxon Valdez runs aground.

The oil tanker hit a submerged reef in Prince William Sound Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea. That’s an estimate; the actual spillage could have been three times that amount. 1,300 miles of seacoast were spoiled and hundreds of thousands of animals perished. The cost of the cleanup thus far has been 7 billion dollars and is still not complete, with oil still buried several inches below the sand on many beaches. In 1994 a jury awarded 38,000 plaintiffs 287 million dollars and fined Exxon 5 billion dollars in punitive damages. Exxon appealed this decision and the fine was reduced to 2.5 billion. Exxon appealed again and in 2008 the Supreme Court set the damages at 507 million. Exxon then agreed to pay 75% of that amount. It took up to 25 years after the disaster for some of the money for the cleanup to be released.

Wonder how many people lost their livelihoods, how many fishermen were unable to pay the mortgages of their boats, how many more otters, seals and seabirds died, while Exxon litigated and spent who knows how much money on lawyers. Doing the right thing, or moneyyou can pretty much bet which one an oil company will choose.

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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 sites and newspapers:

Sources:

Sportscasting.com

Wikipedia.org

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

* Lead-In Image (STOCK ART) – Photo by Peter Olexa on Unsplash – “Liquid color art texture or background 2”

* Exxon Valdez (video clip) – The New York Times / YouTube.com

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

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

December 3

December 5

December 8

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 13

* December 15

December 16

December 18

* December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 5

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

January 12

January 13

January 14

January 15

January 19

January 20

January 22

January 24

January 26

January 29

January 31

February 1

February 3

* February 5

February 7

* February 9

February 10

February 13

February 14

February 15

* February 19

February 20

February 21

February 25

February 26

February 28

March 2

March 5

March 6

March 9

March 12

March 13

March 14

* March 15

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 21

* March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

* April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 25

September 26

September 27

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 4

October 5

October 7

October 10

October 11

* October 12

October 14

October 15

October 16

October 18

October 20

October 24

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 30

October 31

November 1

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 6

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11

November 13

November 14

November 15

November 16

* November 17

November 18

* November 19

November 20

November 23

November 24

November 26

November 27

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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