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This Week in History: Old stadiums and an empty news broadcast

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A lithograph depicting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons) A lithograph depicting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
Yankee Stadium opened April 18, 1923. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons) Yankee Stadium opened April 18, 1923. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
The Chicago Cubs played their first game at Wrigley Field on April 20, 1912. It was 2 years old and was known as Weegham Park. (Source: thejasonhowell/Flickr) The Chicago Cubs played their first game at Wrigley Field on April 20, 1912. It was 2 years old and was known as Weegham Park. (Source: thejasonhowell/Flickr)
Manfred von Richtofen, better known as the Red Baron, was a German World War I flying ace who was shot down April 21, 1918. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Manfred von Richtofen, better known as the Red Baron, was a German World War I flying ace who was shot down April 21, 1918. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) – If you haven't told Uncle Sam how much money you owe him - or he owes you - you should probably get on that.

Today is tax day – HUZZAH!!

While the government takes your hard-earned money away from you, there are several places that won't. Tax day discounts have become a staple in recent years. While you give the government more money to waste, some businesses let you keep some money to waste on your own.

If there is a Cinnabon near you, you can get two free cinnamon bites, which will only make you want more cinnamon bites. Panda Express has a new menu item called Samurai Surf & Turf and you can get it free April 17. That's not tax day, but does that really matter?

Office Depot will make a copy of your tax return free through May 1, and also shred any documents you need to get rid of. The shredding - and any judgmental looks that come with it - is also free.

You can get a free medium Slurpee from 7-Eleven by texting Slurp7 to 711711, which is an act embarrassing enough to deserve a large Slurpee. I make fun of it only because there are no 7-Eleven stores where I live and I am insanely jealous.

You can get a free HydroMassage, sandwich, cookie, popcorn or doughnut simply because Washington needs to pay down the national debt, even though we all know that will never happen. Some places require you to print out a coupon, others make you "like" them on Facebook and some are just generous, decent, God-fearing people that require no work on your part whatsoever.

I'm sure there are more to be found if you look hard enough, but here's a link to the list I found.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between April 15 and 21.

Life and Death

With a little change of pace, I'm starting with deaths this week because there are several notable ones.

The biggest of these is Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated April 14, 1865, and died the next morning. Everybody knows the story of Lincoln's assassination, so I won't go into detail there, but the entire event (much like the Kennedy assassination, which I will talk about in November) captures my attention whenever I hear about it.

I would love to attend a showing of Our American Cousin - the play Lincoln was watching when he was shot - and have them stop the play for a moment of silence at the time of the assassination. There are a few problems with this. First, it's a terribly morbid thing to do, and second, it's a 19th century play about a goofy American visiting his well-to-do high society British relatives. (I think there was an episode of Married … With Children like this.)

The language of the period and all the jokes in the play probably would mean nothing to a modern audience. Case in point, the assassination occurred during what was the biggest comedic moment in the play when the goofy American calls a woman a "sockdologizing old man-trap." What the heck does that mean? How can I be expected to laugh at something that I don't understand?

The main allure of the event would be to pretend you were a witness to the assassination of an American president. I might be wrong, but I doubt there are 10 people in the world willing to pay for that. What does it say about me that I'm one of them?

Clara Blandick, who played Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz, died April 15, 1962, and Marie Tussaud, who opened Madam Tussaud's art gallery in Paris, died April 16, 1850.

Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790, Charles Darwin died April 19, 1882, and Albert Einstein died April 18, 1955. Since I'm on a kick of morbidity right now, I'd also like to visit the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, which is full of medical exhibits (artifacts?) that are self-described as "disturbingly informative." I'm sure I will be horrified and disgusted but at the same time oddly fascinated. I bring this up because it has a piece of Einstein's brain and I want to see it.

That's enough of me being weird to last you a long time, I'm sure. So, Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452. Leonardo seems like one of the coolest people to ever live. He painted a small picture of a woman that people go nuts over, foresaw the helicopter, inspired Cosmo Kramer to do a weird sleep experiment and was the namesake of the lamest of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Charlie Chaplin (1889) and Pope Benedict XVI (1927) were born April 16, and Benedict was elected pope on April 19, 2005.

Alexander Cartwright, the inventor of baseball, was born April 17, 1820. It is accepted as fact that Abner Doubleday was the sport's developer, but it is not true. The Baseball Hall of Fame explains this beautifully on its website.

North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung was born April 15, 1912, the same day the Titanic sunk, and Adolf Hitler was born April 20, 1889.

Overlooked Anniversaries

Action Comics #1 was published April 18, 1938 (though it was dated June). It featured the greatest comic book character, greatest superhero, greatest person and greatest anything and everything ever created in the history of mankind - SUPERMAN!

OK, it's fairly obvious now I'm a Superman fan. I could go on for hours, but I'll just simply let the greatest theme song ever written speak for me.

Last week, I covered the most boring day, which was April 11, 1954, but April 18, 1930, had to have been a close runner-up. On that day, the BBC said there was no news to report. No news. At all. None. Zero. They seriously reported no news. The broadcast said, "Today is Good Friday. There is no news."

I hope CNN does this one day. But then I see this video of what it might be like and I change my mind.

I can imagine Wolf Blitzer coming on and saying "I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the Situation Room … I got NOTHING!" Sadly, it will never happen, because there's always politicians saying stupid stuff, golf tournaments enforcing goofy rules and celebrities traveling to Cuba. We can only dream.

McDonald's first opened April 15, 1955, the first road atlas was printed on April 15, 1924, the Ford Mustang debuted April 17, 1964, and the famous "surgeon's photograph" showing the fictional Loch Ness Monster was published April 21, 1934. I know people believe in ridiculous stuff like that, but I'm saying it's fictional because it is. So is Bigfoot. Ever really listen to the people who claim to have seen Bigfoot? They're all wacky conspiracy theorists. It's not real.

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales debuted April 17, 1397. I had to recite the first 16 lines of it in Middle English in high school. Of all the things I had to learn in high school that I can recall at the drop of a hat, why is the first thing that comes to my mind a bunch of words in a language I barely recognize as the one I'm fluent in? Seriously. Of all the useful things it could be, why this?

There are a lot of disasters and tragedies that have their anniversaries this week. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was April 15, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill started April 20, 2010. The Waco Siege ended April 19, 1993, and was followed two years later by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The mass shooting at Virginia Tech University took place April 16, 2007, and the shooting at Columbine High School was April 20, 1999.

Something About Sports

Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. He played first base, batted second and went 0-for-3 and scored a run, but that is of little consequence because it marked the beginning of integration in Major League Baseball. Brooklyn won 5-3.

Today, Robinson is the only player to have his number retired by all of baseball, and is the only player to be recognized with a day in his honor when all players wear his number - 42. Few people are as associated with a jersey number as Robinson. It's even used as the title of the movie that debuted this week about him. I saw it Friday, and I highly recommend it.

Baseball's opening day is one of the best sports days of the year, and Bob Feller has what I think is the best opening day achievement. He threw a no-hitter on opening day April 16, 1940. The Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0. Baseball was a much different game then, and so was sports writing (and sports writers' names).

Three historic ball parks opened this week. Yankee Stadium opened April 18, 1923. Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park both opened April 20, 1912. The Chicago Cubs played their first game in Wrigley Field that day as well, but the stadium was already 2 years old. It was also the only of these four venues to have a different name - Weegham Park.

The Week in Warfare

The first well-documented battle ever fought was the Battle of Megiddo in 1457. The date is disputed. Some sources cite April 16, and others say May 9. The battle was a rebellion against the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III and was led by the King of Kadesh. The rebellion was soundly defeated.

The Revolutionary War began with American victories at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The British were marching toward Concord to seize weapons. Paul Revere became famous for his "midnight ride" to inform the colonialists of the British Army's movements the night before the battle.

Manfred von Richtofen, more commonly known as the Red Baron, was shot down April 21, 1918. There is fierce debate over who shot the Red Baron down. All we know for sure is it was NOT Snoopy.

The debate is not only over who fired the shot, but whether it came from the air or the ground. Canadian pilot Roy Brown received official credit for the kill, but evidence to support that theory is weak because the bullet wound to the Red Baron does not support an aerial kill theory.

Australian machine gunners on the ground are also credited with the kill. Cedric Popkin is considered the most likely person to have made the shot, and nearly all modern analysis has pegged him as the shooter. Robert Buie was credited by his fellow soldiers as the shooter, but he never received official credit. Snowy Evans was also in position to make the kill, and a Discovery Channel documentary concluded he was the shooter. It also said Popkin could have been the shooter, but showed a letter written by Popkin after the battle where he claimed to not have been shooting at the time he would have needed to in order to inflict the wound the Red Baron suffered, but it also said he thought he had made the fatal shot.

The documentary is excellent, if inconclusive. It's 45 minutes long and is available in three parts (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.) on YouTube if you're interested.

The Doolittle Raid on Japan took place April 17, 1942. It was the first attack on the Japanese mainland in World War II. Heavy bomber aircraft were stripped of everything they didn't need and launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet for the only time in history for the bombing run.

A Japanese patrol detected the Hornet and the raid was launched early. The aircraft were supposed to land in China, but due to low fuel, all either crashed or were ditched. One headed to Russia because of critical fuel level and the crew was held captive for more than a year before escaping.

Of the 80 men who participated in the raid, one was killed while bailing out, two drowned and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Of those eight, one died of malnutrition, three were executed and four survived after being held captive for more than three years. Doolittle thought he was going to be court-martialed because the planes were lost. Instead, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The first flight of the B-52 was April 15, 1952. It is still in service today with no plans to be retired.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

World Voice Day is April 16. I suggest celebrating for two days. The Voice airs on NBC on Monday and Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Preview of next week

Holy anniversary, Batman.

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