Myth Trivia: Matters of life and death. Elvis, Madonna, more

Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, Roy Chapman and Madonna all have August 16 in common. But for very different reasons.

Elvis Presley meeting Richard Nixon. On December 21, 1970 Elvis Presley met President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office of The White House. (Official White House photo, public domain)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., August 16, 2017 – Trivia takes a different turn today as we look at some well-known people who were either born or passed away on August 16.

ELVIS PRESLEY: We begin with the legendary entertainment personality everyone in the media is talking about today, the “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Aron Presley. On this date, Elvis died at his home, Graceland Mansion in Memphis, in 1977. He was only 42-years old.

Presley was born a twin, but his brother died at birth. The surviving twin grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi and worked as a truck driver after high school.

At 19, Presley paid $4 to a recording studio to sing a few songs as a present for his mother. Intrigued by the untrained but rich quality of Presley’s voice, studio owner Sam Phillips invited him back to practice with some other vocalists. During one session, Presley recorded “That’s All Right,” which was subsequently released as a single.

When the record quickly soared to the top of the local charts, Presley’s career was launched, and the rest is history.

Later, the young singer cut his first record, “Heartbreak Hotel,” for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). This successful foray into the big time was followed in early 1956 by “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” A superstar was born.

Ed Sullivan, who had one of the most popular television variety shows of that day, had a keen eye for up-and-coming talent. He offered Presley an opportunity to appear on his show.

While Presley’s hip-swinging style involved allegedly sexual suggestiveness in an era where public morals were taken more seriously than they are today, Elvis was keenly aware that his signature moves had a dramatic effect on his fans. But, much to the chagrin of many parents, he didn’t censor his performance style during his first appearances on the Sullivan show

When Presley made his third appearance on Ed Sullivan, however, network censors only allowed him to be framed only from the waist up.

Presley was drafted in 1958 creating another uproar among his thousands of devoted followers. During his time in the service, he still managed to release five singles which all became million-sellers.

By the 1970s, Presley was declining in physical and mental health. He became extremely overweight while also developing a dangerous dependency on prescription drugs.

He was found unconscious at Graceland on the afternoon of August 16 and pronounced dead on his arrival at a hospital in nearby Memphis, Tennessee.

GEORGE HERMAN “BABE” RUTH: No less a celebrity in the world of baseball then Elvis Presley was in the world of musical entertainment, Babe Ruth was the man who changed the onetime national pastime forever. Like Presley, the Sultan of Swat died too early, succumbing to throat cancer on this day at the age of 53.

After his death, Ruth’s body lay in state at the main entrance of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for two days so thousands of fans could pay their last respects. So dramatically did Ruth and his hitting exploits enrich the game of baseball that Yankee Stadium became affectionately known as the “House that Ruth Built.”

Like so many players of his day, Ruth was as colorful as he was proficient in the batter’s box and on field, even though his prodigious girth made him look like anything but the great ball player he was.

During his time, Ruth set the onetime professional baseball record for home runs hit in a single season (60) and during a career (714). By way of perspective, Ruth hit his record 60 home runs in an age when a player named “Home Run” Baker had earlier led the league with a grand total of 12.

As most baseball fans know today, both records have since been broken. Yet they remain milestones in a game where season and career records still represent the ultimate test of hitting excellence.

Though best known today for whacking pitches over the outfield wall, Babe Ruth actually began his career as a pitcher, and a good one at that. He still holds pitching records today that are now nearly a century old.

Following the 1919 World Series where gamblers attempted to fix the outcome, Ruth’s incredible talents and legendary exploits almost single-handedly rescued the sport from potential oblivion.

Though a womanizer and a heavy drinker on the side when he wasn’t setting baseball records, Ruth was also known for his generosity – which included visiting sick children in hospitals – and his extensive charitable contributions.

Babe Ruth died 69 years ago today in 1948.

RAY CHAPMAN: Just who was Ray Chapman, and how does he rank with Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth?

Chapman did have something in common with Ruth in that they both played Major League Baseball during the same era. Chapman, however, has the dubious distinction of being the only big league player in history who ever died as the result of being hit by a pitch.

Ironically, this baseball tragedy happened on this date in 1920 in a game against Ruth’s New York Yankees. Chapman, who was playing shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays. He died just 12 hours later in a New York hospital.

Carl Mays was a submarine pitcher who threw a hard spitball that was difficult for batters to pick up from his unorthodox delivery. He also had a reputation for being a “bean ball” pitcher in an age when batters did not wear helmets and pitchers frequently threw inside to back batters off the plate.

Chapman used a hunched over stance to crowd the plate and had a reputation for allowing close balls to hit him so he could take first base.

Batting in the fifth inning, Chapman was looking for a curve ball when Mays threw a spitter that froze the batter. Chapman never moved, taking the pitch full force in the left temple.

It was the Chapman incident that led to the spitball being outlawed from the game.

Ray Chapman thus holds the dubious distinction of being the first and only major league player to be killed by a pitched ball during a game. At the time of his death, he was just 29.

MADONNA: Finally, and on a happier note, we also celebrate life today. Madonna Louise Ciccone – better known simply as “Madonna” – was born on this day in Detroit in 1958. The often controversial “Material Girl” rose to stardom as a pop singer and dancer in the 1980s. She later added acting to her list of credentials though singing remains her forte.

Known as a performer who is constantly re-inventing herself with provocative themes, clothing and hair-styles, Madonna has long been a favorite target of the tabloid media.

In 1996, Madonna stretched her talents to the limit in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Evita,” a musical based on the life and times of Argentina’s former first lady, Eva Peron. Madonna’s performance in the title role of Evita earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Always pushing herself to the edge, Madonna’s book of photos called “Sex,” combined with an album titled “Erotica” kept her reputation and persona in the limelight all the way to the bank. Her controversial recent appearance at an anti-Trump Inauguration Day riot in Washington, D.C. once again placed her in the public eye.

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

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