Born Today in History ›
Getty / Stringer / Keystone
Published: 6 months ago
Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base April 15, 1947. He backed it up on the field as well. The Hall of Fame second baseman was an All-Star six times and won the National League MVP award in 1949. We remember Robinson's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1964: Jeff Hanneman, U.S. guitarist who was a founding member of thrash metal band Slayer, is born in Oakland, California.
The guitarist had begun writing songs with the band in 2013 in anticipation of recording a new album, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He had been slowly recovering from what was believed to be a spider bite that nearly cost him his arm after he failed to seek immediate treatment. Read more
1949: Norris Church Mailer, U.S. author and model who was the widow of novelist Norman Mailer, is born in Atkins, Arkansas.
The new Mrs. Mailer discovered the consequences of fame, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. The macho Norman Mailer was charming, callous, wise and infuriating. Through her husband, Norris met Jacqueline Kennedy and Imelda Marcos, Woody Allen and Fidel Castro. Norman Mailer could talk about anything; she likened their banter to the rapport between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. A sign of destiny: The Mailers both were born Jan. 31. Read more
1946: Terry Kath, U.S. musician and songwriter who was the original guitarist and co-lead singer of the rock band Chicago, is born in Chicago, Illinois.
Pleshette matured in such films as The Birds and the Disney comedies The Ugly Dachshund, Blackbeard's Ghost and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Over the years, she also had a busy career in TV movies, including playing the title role in 1990's Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean. Later on, she appeared in several episodes of the TV sitcoms Will & Grace and 8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter. In a 1999 interview, Pleshette observed that being an actress was more important than being a star. Read more
1934: James Franciscus, U.S. actor known for roles on TV shows including Mr. Novak and The Naked City, is born in Clayton, Missouri.
1933: Camille Henry, Canadian hockey player with the New York Rangers, Chicago Black Hawks and St. Louis Blues, is born in Quebec City, Quebec.
1931: Ernie Banks, U.S. Baseball Hall of Famer who was known as Mr. Cub, is born in Dallas, Texas.
Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope. That was the charm of Mr. Cub. Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was known for saying, "It's a great day for baseball. Let's play two." That famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field. Read more
1929: Jean Simmons, English actress whose notable films include The Robe and Guys and Dolls, is born in London, England.
Already a stunning beauty at 14, Simmons made her movie debut in the 1944 British production Give Us the Moon, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Several minor films followed before British director David Lean gave the London-born actress her breakthrough role of Estella, companion to the reclusive Miss Havisham in 1946's Great Expectations. That was followed by the exotic Black Narcissus, and then Laurence Olivier's Oscar-winning Hamlet in 1948, for which Simmons was nominated as best supporting actress. Read more
1928: Chuck Willis, U.S. singer-songwriter who scored No. 1 hits with "C.C. Rider" and "What Am I Living For," is born in Atlanta, Georgia.
1923: Norman Mailer, U.S. novelist whose best-known works include The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner's Song, is born in Long Branch, New Jersey.
From his classic debut novel, The Naked and the Dead, to such masterworks of literary journalism as The Armies of the Night, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner always got credit for insight, passion and originality, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Some of Mailer's works were highly praised, some panned, but none was pronounced the Great American Novel that seemed to be his life quest from the time he soared to the top as a brash 25-year-old "enfant terrible." Read more
1921: Mario Lanza, U.S. actor and operatic tenor known for roles in The Toast of New Orleans and The Great Caruso, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1919: Jackie Robinson, U.S. Major League Baseball player who became the first African-American player in the major leagues when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, is born in Cairo, Georgia.
In 1945, Robinson was playing on the Negro Leagues team the Kansas City Monarchs. When he was approached about playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm team, the Montreal Royals, Robinson was initially skeptical, worrying that they were looking for "a Negro who is afraid to fight back." But he was persuaded to join the Royals for the 1946 season, and he saw great support from the people of Montreal, who flocked to the stadium in unprecedented numbers. The very next season, he was called up to the majors, becoming the newest Brooklyn Dodger and the first black player in MLB history. Read more
1915: Garry Moore, U.S. entertainer who hosted the TV game shows I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth, is born in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 2007, Time magazine named Moore one of the 15 greatest game show hosts of all time. "For 15 years, from 1952 to 1967, this was the best of TV's plethora of panel-game shows, and a big reason was its boyish, crew-cutted host," wrote TV critic Richard Zoglin. "Less stuffy than What's My Line's John Charles Daly, more fun than To Tell the Truth's Bud Collyer, he lent an eager ear to the 'secrets' of both ordinary folks (a man who has collected 7 miles of string) and celebrity guests (Ernest Borgnine disguised himself as a cab driver and drove panelist Jayne Meadows to the show). Not even Steve Allen, who took over near the end of the show's run, could match him." Read more
1915: Thomas Merton, U.S. monk and author who wrote the best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, is born in Prades, France.
1915: Alan Lomax, U.S. folklorist who recorded thousands of folk songs and interviews for the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song, is born in Austin, Texas.
Lomax devoted his life to going to the backwoods and hollers and recording the songs played there, helping to create a massive archive of folk music for the Library of Congress. He made the first-ever recordings of Woody Guthrie's music; he preserved tracks by Lead Belly and Muddy Waters. And he presented this music to the public, teaching us about the origins and importance of the music our ancestors made. Read more
1914: Jersey Joe Walcott, born Arnold Cream, U.S. boxer who broke the world record for the oldest man to hold the world heavyweight champion title, which George Foreman broke more than 43 years later, is born in Merchantville, New Jersey.
1913: Don Hutson, U.S. NFL split end with the Green Bay Packers who is considered by many to be the first modern receiver, is born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
1902: Tallulah Bankhead, U.S. actress whose notable films included Devil and the Deep and The Skin of Our Teeth, is born in Huntsville, Alabama.
Bankhead was more than just a quick wit. She was an award-winning actress, a talk show host, and a liberal-leaning rule-breaker who wasn't too shy to talk – often in detail – about her love life (with both women and men). Many quotes and anecdotes from her career are too risqué to be shared. Read more
1872: Zane Grey, U.S. author of popular Western novels including Riders of the Purple Sage, is born in Zanesville, Ohio.
1797: Franz Schubert, Austrian composer considered one of the greatest composers of the early 19th century, is born in Vienna, Austria.