This Day in History – April 17 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to present Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original on Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog – or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at the comings and goings of life.




1861 – Virginia secedes from the Union.

Fort Sumter had been dismissed three days earlier, and after President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, Virginia politicians voted in favor of secession. Until now, they had been reluctant to join states further south that had already seceded. Beginning with South Carolina in December 1860, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed in January and February. At Virginia’s secession convention in February, there were equal numbers of secessionists and unionists, but moderates outnumbered the two blocs. But the search for a peaceful way out of the crisis has failed. This is from A politician who later became a general in the Confederate Army, said he would rather be stricken with disease and starvation than see African Americans freed from slavery and benefit equality as citizens.

He partly got his wish because while slavery was abolished, equal rights for citizens is still ongoing. As an amateur historian, I must confess that I had no idea that the Confederate States of America had been established months before the attack on Fort Sumter.


1863 – Grierson Raid.

American General Grant was attempting to take Vicksburg, Mississippi, but his army was bogged down. He needed a diversion, so he sent a unit of cavalry behind the rebel lines to disrupt the supply line and create havoc. Leading the 1,700-man unit was Benjamin Grierson, a 36-year-old former music teacher who had joined the infantry because he hated horses. Showing military talent, he rose through the ranks until he found himself a colonel in the cavalry. Leaving on the 17th, Grierson led his men for 16 days south, destroying bridges, railroads, supplies, capturing prisoners and fighting frequent battles. Grant would later describe it as one of the most brilliant cavalry feats of the war. During his raid, Grierson suffered only 36 casualties. Then he described the South as a hollow shell. For his efforts, Grierson was promoted to general and celebrated, uncomfortably for him, as a hero.

Imagine what the man could have done if he had loved horses.


1947 – Jackie Robinson’s first success.

Two days earlier, Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier and become the first African-American to play in the major leagues. He went without a hit in his first game. Playing against the Boston Braves in his second game, Robinson came up to bat in the fifth inning and put down a bunt on the third base line and beat it for a single. Brooklyn Eagle sportswriter Harold Burr, commenting on Robinson’s performance, wrote, “Nigger isn’t exactly wearing the ball down, but he’s still under heavy pressure.” He also wrote, “The jury is still out on Jackie Robinson.” The verdict was not long in coming as Robinson went on to tally 174 more hits in his rookie season.

Incidentally, it was also future Hall of Famer Duke Snider’s debut and he hit a single on his first at bat.

1951 – Mickey Mantle’s 1st game and 1st hit. Playing against the Boston Red Sox, Mantle singled and collected a run-batted-in.

1953 – Mickey Mantle’s tape measure home run. Two years to the day after his first hit, Mantle was at Griffith Stadium to play against the Washington Senators. He hit a home run so far that he left the stadium. The Yankees press secretary picked up the ball and measured the distance at 565 feet and the term tape measure home run was born.

April 17 was a good 1st day for future Hall of Famers.



1852 – Cape Anson.

Baseball player. Anson is in the Hall of Fame and is credited with being the first player to have 3,000 hits. He is considered one of baseball’s first superstars. Taking advantage of his popularity, Anson is one of the reasons baseball became segregated and remained so until 1947. Anson refused to take the field if the opposing team had a dark-skinned player.

That’s how all this baseball intolerance started. Anson died long before baseball was integrated. In my April 14 blog, I wrote that Pete Rose wasn’t in the HOF because of his game. Apparently that’s more of a crime than abject racism.


1885 – Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen.

Writer. Born in Denmark, Blixen had a sad childhood as her father committed suicide when she was nine. It was then that she began to compose stories to relieve her unhappiness. She studied art in Copenhagen, got married, and then in 1915 she and her husband moved to Kenya where they started a coffee plantation. Her husband was a womanizer and she contacted syphilis from him, which plagued her for the rest of her life. They divorced in 1921, he left, and she ran the plantation on her own, defying the conventions of the time. She called this experience the most liberating moment of her life. She was criticized for this because her release came from Africans. During this period, she had an affair with another planter, Denys Finch-Hatton. This romance was made into the movie “Out of Africa” ​​starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. He died in a plane crash in 1929 and she left the plantation and Africa in 1931 to return to Europe. It was then that she started writing and found success. Her writing is now considered dated for the dismissive way it refers to Africans, whom she describes as the “natives”. This from “Criticism of her work frequently ranges from admiration of her form to outrage at her depiction of Africans.” Blixen came to America in 1959 and had lunch with writer Carson McCullers and actress Marilyn Monroe. Still suffering from syphilis and ulcers, Blixen died in 1962 at the age of 77.

McCulleres, Monroe and Blixen, which qualifies as an odd bunch. In a photo of the three of them together, the consequences of Blixen’s disease on her are evident. When it comes to its racial insensitivity, many people fall victim to the mores and customs of the age in which they live and do not surpass them.


1915 – Joe Foss.

Fighter pilot, businessman, politician. During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Foss shot down 26 enemy aircraft and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He served in the Pacific until 1944, when malaria forced him into retirement. After the war, he opened a car dealership, served in the South Dakota House, served as state governor as a moderate Republican, served as commissioner of the new American Football League before it merged with the NFL, hosted two sports TV shows, served as director of public affairs for KLM Airlines, and eventually served as president of the National Rifle Association. Foss is considered one of South Dakota’s favorite sons.

Phew, quite a career. All right, except maybe for its association with the NRA. But maybe back then it wasn’t the crazy organization it is today.



At various times in his life, Gary has been an indifferent elementary school student, a poor high school student, a good Navy radioman, a former hippie, a passable student, an inveterate traveler, a devoted writer, an erroneous accountant (at the exception of an interesting stint at a communist cafe), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, failed retiree, and new blogger.

You can reach him at [email protected]



The above information comes from the following sites and newspapers:


We also thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Intro Image (Baseball) – Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

* Cape Anson (video) – National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum /

* Karen Blixen (video) – pladstilto /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /