August 16, 1948: Babe Ruth dies
On August 16, 1948, baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth dies from cancer in New York City. For two days following, his body lay in state at the main entrance to Yankee Stadium, and tens of thousands of people stood in line to pay their last respects. He was buried in Hawthorne, New York.
Ruth, who had a colorful personality and an unmistakable physical presence, began his major league career in Baltimore in 1914. That same year, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and during the next five years proved himself to be a formidable left-handed pitcher and batter. In 1919, he was sold to the New York Yankees, where he played outfield to better exploit his phenomenal hitting talents. At a time when baseball was suffering through the disgrace of the Black Sox scandal, Ruth almost single-handedly salvaged the sport’s popularity, hitting a record 60 home runs in the 1927 season and leading the Yankees to seven pennants. Yankee Stadium, opened in 1923, came to be known as “the House that Ruth Built.”
However, the Babe also made headlines by his charitable actions, such as visiting sick children in hospitals. In 1935, he retired from baseball, having hit a record 714 home runs in his career. In 1946, Ruth was diagnosed with throat cancer, but doctors could do little. Early the next year, treatment ended. On June 13, 1948, a uniformed Ruth appeared at Yankee Stadium one last time to retire his number. On August 16, he died of cancer at the age of 53.
Here’s a mournful video of The Babe’s funeral.
August 16, 1956: The Rizal Act took effect
On August 16, 1956, Republic Act 1425, commonly known as the Rizal Act requiring the inclusion in school curricula of courses on Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and works, took effect.
Approved in Congress on June 12, 1956, the Rizal Act (also known as Batas Rizal), which was authored by Senator Claro M. Recto, requires private and public schools, colleges and universities to include in their curricula a course on Rizal’s life, works and writings, particularly his novel Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
The purpose of Batas Rizal is to rekindle the flame of nationalism in the hearts of Filipinos, particularly the youth who are forgetting what our patriots have done and given to fight for our freedom.
Coincidentally, on this same day in 1911, Teodora Alonso, mother and first teacher of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, died in her home in San Fernando Street, Binondo, Manila.
August 16, 1958: Madonna was born
On this day in 1958, Madonna Louise Ciccone, the entertainment icon later known around the world by her first name only, is born near Detroit, Michigan. After rising to stardom as a pop singer and dancer in the 1980s, Madonna added acting to her resume, with roles in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own and Evita. The provocative performer, who often tackled sexual and religious themes in her work, also became famous for her ever-changing hairstyles and fashion sense as well as her personal life, which remains an ongoing source of fascination to the tabloid media.
Madonna was raised in a Catholic family in the suburbs of Detroit. After dropping out of the University of Michigan in 1978, the future “Material Girl” moved to New York City to become a dancer. She burst onto the music scene in 1982 with her dance single “Everybody,” which was followed by her self-titled debut album in 1983. She performed the title track of her second album, Like a Virgin, at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, wearing her trademark “Boy Toy” belt. Like a Virgin, Madonna’s first album to reach the No. 1 spot on the music charts, was followed by True Blue (1986) and Like a Prayer (1989), both of which also reached the top of the charts and helped establish her as one of the best-selling artists of the 1980s. Other albums have included Bedtime Stories (1994), Ray of Light (1998), Music (2000), American Life (2003), Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) and Hard Candy (2008). In March 2008, the chameleonic hitmaker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Madonna made her acting debut in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), which was followed by Shanghai Surprise (1986), co-starring her first husband, Sean Penn, and Who’s That Girl (1987). In Dick Tracy (1990), Madonna acted opposite Warren Beatty, with whom she became romantically involved during filming. In 1991, she starred in Madonna: Truth or Dare?, a behind-the-scenes documentary about her “Blonde Ambition” tour. In 1992, Madonna caused a scandal with her Erotica album as well as a controversial, adult-themed book of photos titled Sex. Also that year, she appeared on the big-screen in A League of Their Own, a well-received movie about an all-female baseball league, co-starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell.
In 1996, Madonna took on her most ambitious role yet, playing Eva Peron, the celebrated former first lady of Argentina, in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita. She received a Golden Globe for Best Actress for the performance. In 2000, Madonna appeared in the critically derided The Next Best Thing, playing a woman who has a child with her gay best friend (Rupert Everett). In 2002, she starred in another bomb, Swept Away, directed by her second husband, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch).
In addition to her acting credits, Madonna’s music has been included on numerous movie soundtracks, including Die Another Day (2002) and Get Smart (2008). She made her directorial debut in 2008 with a film titled Filth and Wisdom.
August 16, 1977: Elvis Presley dies
Popular music icon Elvis Presley dies in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 42. The death of the “King of Rock and Roll” brought legions of mourning fans to Graceland, his mansion in Memphis. Doctors said he died of a heart attack, likely brought on by his addiction to prescription barbiturates.
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jesse, died during the birth. Elvis grew up dirt-poor in Tupelo and Memphis and found work as a truck driver after high school. When he was 19, he walked into a Memphis recording studio and paid $4 to record a few songs as a present to his mother. Sam Philips, the owner of the studio, was intrigued by the rough, soulful quality of his voice and invited Presley back to practice with some local musicians. After Philips heard Elvis sing the rhythm-and-blues song “That’s All Right,” which Presley imbued with an accessible country-and-western flavor, he agreed to release the rendition as a single on his Sun Records label. The recording went to the top of the local charts, and Presley’s career was launched.
During the next year, Elvis attracted a growing following in the South, and in 1955 Sun Records sold his contract to a major record label, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), for a record $40,000. His first record for RCA was “Heartbreak Hotel,” which made him a national sensation in early 1956. He followed this up with the double-sided hit record “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel.” In September 1956, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a national variety television show, and teenagers went into hysterics over his dynamic stage presence, good looks, and simple but catchy songs. Many parents, however, were appalled by his sexually suggestive pelvic gyrations, and by his third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis was filmed from only the waist up.
From 1956 through 1958, Elvis dominated the music charts and ushered in the age of rock and roll, opening doors for both white and black rock artists. During this period, he starred in four successful motion pictures, all of which featured his soundtracks: Love Me Tender (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), Loving You (1957), and King Creole (1958).
In 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army and served an 18-month tour of duty in West Germany as a Jeep driver. Teenage girls were overcome with grief, but Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, kept American youth satiated with stockpiled recordings that Presley made before his departure. All five singles released during this period eventually became million-sellers.
After being discharged as a sergeant in 1960, Elvis underwent a style change, eschewing edgy, rhythm-and-blues-inspired material in favor of romantic, dramatic ballads such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” He retired from concerts to concentrate on his musical films, and he made 27 in the 1960s, including G.I. Blues (1960), Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), Viva Las Vegas (1964), and Frankie and Johnny (1966). In 1967, he married Priscilla Beaulieu, and the couple had a daughter, Lisa Marie, in 1968.
By the end of the 1960s, rock and roll had undergone dramatic changes, and Elvis was no longer seen as relevant by American youth. A 1968 television special won back many of his fans, but hits were harder to come by. His final Top 10 entry, “Burning Love,” was in 1972. Still, he maintained his sizable fortune through lucrative concert and television appearances.
By the mid 1970s, Elvis was in declining physical and mental health. He divorced his wife in 1973 and developed a dangerous dependence on prescription drugs. He was also addicted to junk food and gained considerable weight. In the last two years of his life, he made erratic stage appearances and lived nearly as a recluse. On the afternoon of August 16, 1977, he was found unconscious in his Graceland mansion and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was buried on the grounds of Graceland, which continues to attract fans and has been turned into a highly successful tourist attraction.
Here’s a video of The King with his beautiful rendition of “My Way” with photos and video footages of his funeral.