Today in History: May 2

The Des Moines Demons defeated the Wichita Aviators 13-6 on this date in 1930. It was the first professional baseball game played at night under permanently installed lights. Twelve thousand fans attended.

Sec Taylor reported in the next day’s Des Moines Register: “One hundred forty six projectors diffusing 53,000,000 candle-power of mellow light and the amazing batting of Des Moines’ nocturnal-eyed players made the opening night of the local baseball season a complete success Friday night. Baseball was played successfully after dark on an illuminated field and the Demons won 13-6 in a contest that was normal in every respect so far as the playing was concerned.”

“Normal in every respect,” it was an immediate success, and by the end of the 1930 season 38 teams in 14 minor leagues had light systems installed and were playing games at night. It took five years, however, for a major league team (the Cincinnati Reds) to make the investment in night baseball. It took another half a century for every major league team to install lights: the Chicago Cubs joined the rest of baseball and installed lights at Wrigley Field in 1988.

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Good Housekeeping magazine was founded on this date in 1885.

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“I’m benching myself, Joe,” Lou Gehrig told the manager of the New York Yankees, Joe McCarthy, on this date in 1939. Gehrig had played in every game the Yankees had played from June 1, 1925, to the beginning of the 1939 season, 2130 consecutive games in all. But through the 1938 season and through spring training 1939, something had changed in Gehrig’s body: even though he had sufficient muscle memory to swing at and hit the ball directly, the result was weak pop-ups and soft liners. He tripped on his own legs running the bases. He fell over tying his shoes. “For the good of the team, I’m benching myself.” He never played baseball again.

In June, he traveled to the Mayo Clinic, where they diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In a letter to his wife, Eleanor, he wrote, “There is a 50–50 chance of keeping me as I am. I may need a cane in 10 or 15 years.” He did not know how optimistic that was. He was dead two years after his diagnosis.

Cal Ripken, Jr., subsequently broke the consecutive games played record and set the standard with 2632 consecutive games played.

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The Battle of Berlin ended on this date in 1945. The Soviet Red Army took the Reichstag building and the Reich chancellery, and the remaining Nazi defenders of the city surrendered. World War II in Europe ended less than a week later.

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Osama bin Laden was killed on this date five years ago.

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Dr. Benjamin Spock was born on this date in 1903. The late Theodore Bikel was born on this date in 1924. The late Lesley Gore was born 70 years ago today.

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Engelbert Humperdinck is 80 today. He told an interviewer last week: “You know, it’s [80] a hard number to accept in your head. You say, ‘I can’t believe it that I’m going to be that.’ It’s better than the alternative. I’m fortunate because people tell me I don’t look my age. People come up to me and say, ‘You don’t look your age.’ I can’t imagine how bad I must’ve looked when I was younger. I must have looked hideous.” A younger Engelbert Humperdinck:

Bianca Jagger is 71. Larry Gatlin is 68. Lou Gramm is 66. Christine Baranski is 64. Donatella Versace is 61. Dwayne The Rock Johnson is 44. David Beckham is 41. Lily Allen is 31.

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