There aren’t too many days so emblazoned in our memories as July 20 is for me.
Not just for one memorable moment, but two spectacular ones.
So, if you don’t mind, come along with me as I memorialize those wonderful moments and share some of the colorful details that intensify my own memory of those very special days … and maybe help you, as well, to memorialize those special moments in your life.
Sunday, July 20, 1958
My father was a minister so weekends were never our own. Saturdays for last minute preparation, Sundays for church.
We lived in Michigan and were huge Detroit Tiger fans. Detroit was several hundred miles away and between school, summer jobs and Dad’s work, we never made it to a game.
That is, until my Dad was hired to teach some courses at Boston University one summer and the family got to tag along for 3 weeks. While Dad was working, Mom dragged us all over town. We hit the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, Lexington & Concord and an endless array of the great attractions of Boston.
“Hey Dad, look who’s in town?”
One day I was glancing at the Boston Globe and saw that the Detroit Tigers were in town, playing a double header on Sunday. Since Dad wasn’t preaching, he was eager to take us. We were free and couldn’t wait to get to Fenway Park and finally see our Tigers tackle the Bosox and their Green Monster.
Jim Bunning was pitching the first game that day, but facing some all-start hitters, including the great Ted Williams. Of course, we had some pretty good batters in the lineup, too, with Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline leading the pack.
It’s worth noting that Bunning is the only pitcher to ever strike out Ted Williams 3 times in one game, and his record against the Red Sox was his best for any opponent.
Jim Bunning threw his first no-hitter in Game 1 of that double header. (He pitched his second no-hitter in a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies on Father’s Day in 1964. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.)
Imagine as a kid, playing in Little League every summer and grabbing a bat and glove at every chance to play in the neighbor’s yard. (Recently, I did a nostalgia tour with my Mom and visited that backyard. In my memory, it was huge. In reality? I don’t know how all of us fit in that small yard.)
As kids, we loved baseball but never had the chance to attend a Major League baseball game.
So, showing up at an away game – your hometown Tigers playing in Boston at a time when you happened to be there – and then in the first game you ever attended, watching a No-Hitter? Man, that was sweet.
No one even breathed after about the 7th inning. We didn’t want to jinx it and back then, fans on both sides were reverent about seeing such a rare event and being lucky enough to attend.
That’s a day I’ll never forget!
Another Sunday – July 20, 1969
A bunch of us had just taken an apartment in East Lansing, Michigan and were preparing to start our first full-time jobs.
We had just graduated from college and the military draft was in full swing. Vietnam was just a few flights away for many in the room that day.
It was Sunday morning but no one was out.
No cars were on the street. No one was taking a walk. The restaurants were mostly empty.
We were just hanging around the TV that morning, drinking coffee and awaiting the magical moment that was soon to arrive.
“One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind”
Then, it happened.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. ~ Carl Sagan
Neil Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11 and with those famous words that every school age child has surely memorized, he became the first man to walk on the moon.
Much has happened in the space program since then, so it’s hard for those born since then to appreciate how monumental that day was. (Astronauts were only men back then, yet today fully 50% of astronauts are women.)
Although NASA’s space program has ended for now, sending a rocket into space seems so routine that gathering around the TV to watch a space launch is no longer much of an event for most people.
It was a different world back then …
Although it was the culmination of President Kennedy’s 1961 goal to put a man on the moon, it wasn’t just an American accomplishment.
There was a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’, for sure. After all, it was our country that sponsored this mission.
For that moment, we transcended our humanity
It was one of those rare watershed moments that occurs but once in the lives of very few.
There was a universal bond that we all felt that day … as if each of us was exalted in that extraordinary moment, one of those first-of-a-kind triumphs that can never be duplicated or repeated.
Sunday, July 20 – What a Day!
That’s the way it was for me on two momentous July 20 Sundays.
For just for a moment on those summer Sundays … all of us had transcended our humanity … for a special baseball moment that few ever get to witness … and for something that mankind had wondered and dreamed about ever since we first looked skyward.
Some things are larger than life, and for these two moments, something extraordinary and special happened that I’ll never forget.
Question: Any chance that July 20 means anything to you? Is there one particular day that has more than one great memory for you?