I just checked out the Wikipedia page for August 16, and it turns out a lot of very important people bit the dust on this date. I had to share, because this is the sort of pointless horseshit that I find fascinating.
Robert Johnson, the greatest blues musician who ever lived, died today in 1938 of pneumonia, after surviving strychnine poisoning at the hands of either the jealous husband of his girlfriend, or his jealous girlfriend, depending on who you ask, a few weeks earlier. He wrote and recorded some of the most important and influential songs of the 20th century, including “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Come On In My Kitchen,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” and “Crossroads.”
Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, died on August 16, 1949, after being run over by a taxi in Atlanta on August 11.
Bela Lugosi, star of the 1931 film Dracula, perhaps the most famous shitty actor ever, died on this date in 1956. He gave his final performance three years later, in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Elvis “The King” Presley, a “rock and roll” singer of some renown, died on his toilet today in 1977. He was a singer and entertainer of considerable talent, but not half as good as most of the country singers and black bluesmen from whom he stole his act. Still, he recorded “Hound Dog,” and made the great Carl Perkins a millionaire, so Elvis is okay by me.
Earl Averill, the great outfielder who played for the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, and Boston Braves, died on August 16, 1983. Earl played in the first six All-Star games, from 1933-1938, and played in the World Series in 1939. He wore #3.
Amanda Blake, who played saloon-keeper/madam Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke for 19 years, died on this day in 1989, at age 60, of AIDS.
Pat O’Connor, professional wrestling legend, former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and the first-ever AWA World Heavyweight Champion, died of cancer today in 1990. He held the NWA belt for over two years, and dropped it to the original “Nature Boy,” Buddy Rogers, in front of 38,000 fans in Comiskey Park in 1961.
And, having saved the best for last:
Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player in history, died of throat cancer on August 16, 1948. From 1914 to 1919, Ruth was a pitcher/outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. He pitched a 14-inning complete game victory in game 2 of the 1916 World Series, helping Boston win the Series in five games. In 1918, he led the Red Sox to another World Series and pitched two victories, finishing with a Series ERA of 1.06. It was the last World Series Boston would win for 86 years. Ruth’s record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless World Series innings stood until 1961. In 1919 he became more or less a full-time outfielder, and hit a record 29 home runs that season. The next year, Boston owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees, where he went on to break his own record for single-season homers three times – 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921, and 60 in 1927. When the Yankees began requiring their players to wear numbers on their uniforms in 1929, Ruth took #3, his place in the batting order. The team retired #3, the first time that had ever been done, a few weeks before Ruth died.
Lots of people were born today, too. I’ll just mention one, one of my favorite writers: Charles Bukowski, born today in 1920. He died in 1994, but Happy Birthday anyway, Hank.