Colts win NFL title in ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’

On December 28, 1958, the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in the NFL Championship Game—a back-and-forth thriller that later is billed as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The nationally televised championship—the league’s first overtime contest—is watched by 45 million viewers and fuels the NFL’s meteroric rise in popularity.

“Never has there been a game like this one,” Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated wrote. “When there are so many high points, it is not easy to pick the highest.”

According to the New York Daily News, gross receipts for the sellout at Yankee Stadium in New York, including television and radio, were $698,646. That resulted in a a $4,718.77 bonus for each Colts player, $3,111.33 for each Giant.

READ MORE: The greatest games in sports history

The star of the game was Colts quarterback and future Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas, who completed 26 of 40 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown—impressive statistics in the pre-Super Bowl era. 

Near the end of regulation, Unitas led the Colts on a drive from their 14-yard line to tie the score. In overtime, he led a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Alan “The Horse” Ameche.

When asked about the winning drive, in which he completed four of his five passing attempts, Unitas responded with his trademark confidence, “Why shouldn’t I have passed then? After all, you don’t have to risk anything when you know where you’re passing.” 

“The Greatest Game Ever Played” was sloppy, with the teams combining for eight fumbles (six lost). But the championship featured 16 future Hall of Famers besides Unitas. Among them were Giants running back (and future TV star) Frank Gifford andassistant coach Vince Lombardi, who went on to lead the Green Bay Packers to five NFL titles.

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Keeling Curve, showing increase of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, is discovered

In March of 1958, Dr. Charles David Keeling begins regularly measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawai’i. Over the ensuing years, his research will reveal what is now known as the Keeling Curve: a graph of continuously-taken measurements showing the rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide.

Previously, scientists had not regularly measured the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. As part of the International Geophysical Year, an international scientific project that took place between 1957 and 1958, Keeling received funding to conduct monitoring at Mauna Loa and at the South Pole. Some colleagues questioned why sustained monitoring was necessary, but Keeling was steadfast in his desire to take detailed and continuous measurements. Though budget cuts forced him to abandon the South Pole monitoring in the 1960s, the Mauna Loa testing continues to this day.

READ MORE: When Global Warming Was Revealed by the Keeling Curve

On a micro level, the curve zig-zags due to the imbalance in the amount of vegetation in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – there is more land in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore more plants to “breathe out” oxygen in the Northern summer, lowering CO2 levels, which rise again in the Northern winter. Over many years, however, a stark and undeniable picture has emerged. Keeling’s data points form a curve that is steadily increasing, incontrovertible evidence that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising over time. As other scientists began to study atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, a consensus emerged that levels were rising to problematic levels. The recognition of this fact, made possible by Keeling, was one of the earliest and most important steps in mankind’s awakening to the reality of climate change.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

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Michael Jackson is born

Year
1958
Month Day
August 29

Pop sensation Michael Jackson is born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana.

Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group the Jackson 5 when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with “I Want You Back.” By age 11, Jackson was appearing on TV, and by age 14 he had released his first solo album. A Jackson 5 TV cartoon series appeared in the early ’70s, and in 1976 the Jackson family, including sister Janet Jackson, launched a TV variety show called The Jacksons that ran for one season. Throughout the 70s, media attention focused on Michael, who piped vocals in his high voice for “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and many other Top 20 hits.

Jackson released several solo albums in the ’70s, but his great breakthrough came in 1979 with Off the Wall. He became the first solo artist to score four Top 10 hits from one album, including “She’s Out of My Life” and “Rock with You.” His next album, Thriller (1983), became the biggest selling album up to that time, selling some 45 million copies around the world. This time, he scored seven Top 10 singles, and the album won eight Grammies. Although his next album, Bad (1987), sold only about half as many copies as Thriller, it was still a tremendous best-seller. In 1991, Jackson signed an unprecedented $65 million record deal with Sony. That year, he released Dangerous.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jackson developed a reputation as an eccentric recluse. He moved to a 2,700-acre ranch called Neverland, which he outfitted with wild animals and a Ferris wheel. He underwent a facelift and nose job and was rumored to have lightened his skin through chemical treatment, though he claimed his increasing pallor was due to a skin disease. In 1993, scandal broke when Jackson was publicly accused of child molestation and underwent investigation. The case settled out of court. In 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley; the couple later divorced. Jackson married Deborah Rowe in 1996, and the couple had two children, Prince and Paris, before divorcing in 1999.

On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of sexual molestation of a young boy, Gavin Arvizo, in criminal court. 

Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles, California, just weeks before a planned concert tour billed as his “comeback.” He was 50 years old. 

A 2019 documentary, Leaving Neverland, raised two more credible allegations of sexual misconduct from when Jackson was alive. Jackson’s family and estate continue to deny the claims. 

READ MORE: The Final Days of Michael Jackson 

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John Birch Society founded


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Year
1958
Month Day
December 09

In Indianapolis, retired Boston candy manufacturer Robert H.W. Welch, Jr., establishes the John Birch Society, a right-wing organization dedicated to fighting what it perceives to be the extensive infiltration of communism into American society. Welch named the society in honor of John Birch, considered by many to be the first American casualty in the struggle against communism. In 1945, Birch, a Baptist missionary and U.S. Army intelligence specialist, was killed by Chinese communists in the northern province of Anhwei.

The John Birch Society, initially founded with only 11 members, had by the early 1960s grown to a membership of nearly 100,000 Americans and received annual private contributions of several million dollars. The society revived the spirit of McCarthyism, claiming in unsubstantiated accusations that a vast communist conspiracy existed within the U.S. government. Among others, the organization implicated President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. However, after the debacle of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s public hearings in the early 1950s, America became more wary of radical anti-communism, and few of the society’s sensational charges were taken seriously by mainstream American society. The John Birch Society remains active today, and its members seek “to expose a semi-secret international cabal whose members sit in the highest places of influence and power worldwide.”

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W.C. Handy—the “Father of the Blues”—dies

Year
1958
Month Day
March 28

“With all their differences, my forebears had one thing in common: if they had any musical talent, it remained buried.” So wrote William Christopher Handy in his autobiography in discussing the absence of music in his home life as a child. Born in northern Alabama in 1873, Handy was raised in a middle-class African American family that intended for him a career in the church. To them and to his teachers, W.C. Handy wrote, “Becoming a musician would be like selling my soul to the devil.” It was a risk that the young Handy decided to take. He was internationally famous by the time he wrote his 1941 memoir, Father of the Blues, although “Stepfather” might have been a more accurate label for the role he played in bringing Blues into the musical mainstream. The significance of his role is not to be underestimated, however. W.C. Handy, one of the most important figures in 20th-century American popular music history, died in New York City on March 28, 1958.

While Handy’s teachers might not have considered a career in music to be respectable, they provided him with the tools that made his future work possible. Naturally blessed with a fantastic ear, Handy was drilled in formal musical notation as a schoolboy. “When I was no more than ten,” Hand wrote in Father of the Blues, I could catalogue almost any sound that came to my ears, using the tonic sol-fa system. I knew the whistle of each of the river boats on the Tennessee … Even the bellow of the bull became in my mind a musical note, and in later years I recorded this memory in the ‘Hooking cow Blues.’” The talent and the inclination to take the traditional black music he heard during his years as a traveling musician and capture it accurately in technically correct sheet music would be Handy’s great professional contribution. It not only made the music that came to be called “the Blues” playable by other professional musicians, but it also added the fundamental musical elements of the Blues into the vocabulary of professional song-composers. Jazz standards “The Memphis Blues” and “St. Louis Blues” are the most famous of Handy’s own compositions, but his musical legacy can be heard in the works of composers as varied as George Gershwin and Keith Richards.

More than 25,000 mourners filled the streets around Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church for the funeral of W.C. Handy, who died at the age of 85 on March 28, 1958.

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First Gold Record awarded to Perry Como for “Catch a Falling Star”


Year
1958
Month Day
March 14

For as long as most people have been buying popular music on records, tapes and compact disks, the records, tapes and disks they’ve bought have carried labels like “Certified Gold!” and “Double Platinum!!” Those labels have been in use since the early days of the rock-and-roll era, when a young trade organization called the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) created and trademarked its precious-metals-based scale for measuring music sales. On March 14, 1958, the RIAA awarded its first official Gold Record—it had gifted an unofficial gold-sprayed record to Glen Miller in 1942—record to to Perry Como for his smash-hit single “Catch A Falling Star.”

Those who’ve been conditioned to believe that rock and roll wiped out everything in its path on its way toward dominating late-20th-century pop music may be surprised to hear that Perry Como was such a viable commercial artist fully two years after the arrival of Elvis Presley. Como, a 50-something holdover in a cozy cardigan sweater, stood for everything that youthful rock and roll did not, after all. Where rock and roll promised sex, excitement and social change, Como’s act evoked much more staid pursuits. Yet “Catch A Falling Star” was not the only hit record for Perry Como in the early years of the rock-and-roll “revolution.” Songs like “Hot Diggity” and “Round And Round” more than held their own against more rebellious fare, and while they might not have been “cool,” they didn’t need to be in order to find an audience in late 1950s America.

It is certainly worth noting, however, that the RIAA waited until Elvis Presley’s string of pre-Army hits was over before codifying what was formerly a loose, PR-driven process and creating an objective standard (500,000 sales) for the Gold Record. After the first Gold Record was awarded to Perry Como for “Catch A Falling Star,” the RIAA’s next honoree was Laurie London for “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” And while Elvis Presley was the third artist to receive such an honor (for “Hard Headed Woman” in August 1958), his single Gold Record through the end of 1961 had him tied on the RIAA’s list with Lawrence Welk (whose “Calcutta” was certified Gold in February 1961).

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Khrushchev becomes Soviet premier

Year
1958
Month Day
March 27

On March 27, 1958, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev replaces Nicolay Bulganin as Soviet premier, becoming the first leader since Joseph Stalin to simultaneously hold the USSR’s two top offices.

Khrushchev, born into a Ukrainian peasant family in 1894, worked as a mine mechanic before joining the Soviet Communist Party in 1918. In 1929, he went to Moscow and steadily rose in the party ranks and in 1938 was made first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. He became a close associate of Joseph Stalin, the authoritarian leader of the Soviet Union since 1924. In 1953, Stalin died, and Khrushchev grappled with Stalin’s chosen successor, Georgy Malenkov, for the position of first secretary of the Communist Party. Khrushchev won the power struggle, and Malenkov was made premier, a more ceremonial post. In 1955, Malenkov was replaced by Bulganin, Khrushchev’s hand-picked nominee.

In 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his totalitarian policies at the 20th Party Congress, leading to a “thaw” in the USSR that saw the release of millions of political prisoners. Almost immediately, the new atmosphere of freedom led to anti-Soviet uprisings in Poland and Hungary. Khrushchev flew to Poland and negotiated a diplomatic solution, but the Hungarian rebellion was crushed by Warsaw Pact troops and tanks.

Khruschev’s program of de-Stalinization was opposed by some hard-liners in the Communist Party, and in June 1957 he was nearly ousted from his position as first secretary. After a brief struggle, he secured the removal of Malenkov and the other top party members who had opposed him and in 1958 prepared to take on the post of premier. On March 27, 1958, the Supreme Soviet–the Soviet legislature–voted unanimously to make First Secretary Khrushchev also Soviet premier, thus formally recognizing him as the undisputed leader of the USSR.

In foreign affairs, Premier Khrushchev’s stated policy was one of “peaceful coexistence” with the West. He said, “we offer the capitalist countries peaceful competition” and gave the Soviet Union an early lead in the space race by launching the first Soviet satellites and cosmonauts. A visit to the United States by Khrushchev in 1959 was hailed as a new high in U.S.-Soviet relations, but superpower relations would hit dangerous new lows in the early 1960s.

In 1960, Khrushchev walked out of a long-awaited four-powers summit over the U-2 affair, and in 1961 he authorized construction of the Berlin Wall as a drastic solution to the East German question. Then, in October 1962, the United States and the USSR came close to nuclear war over the USSR’s placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. After 13 tense days, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the offensive weapons in exchange for a secret U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba.

The humiliating resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an agricultural crisis at home, and the deterioration of Soviet-Chinese relations over Khrushchev’s moderate policies all led to growing opposition to Khrushchev in the party ranks. On October 14, 1964, Leonid Brezhnev, Khrushchev’s protege and deputy, organized a successful coup against him, and Khrushchev abruptly stepped down as first secretary and premier. He retired to obscurity outside Moscow and lived there until his death in 1971.

READ MORE: The Collapse of the Soviet Union

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Charles de Gaulle elected president of France


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Year
1958
Month Day
December 21

Three months after a new French constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle is elected the first president of the Fifth Republic by a sweeping majority of French voters. The previous June, France’s World War II hero was called out of retirement to lead the country when a military and civilian revolt in Algeria threatened France’s stability.

A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle unsuccessfully petitioned his country to modernize its armed forces in the years before the outbreak of World War II. After French Premier Henri Pétain signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June 1940, de Gaulle fled to London, where he organized the Free French forces and rallied French colonies to the Allied cause. His forces fought successfully in North Africa, and in June 1944 he was named head of the French government in exile.

On August 26, following the Allied invasion of France, de Gaulle entered Paris in triumph. In November, he was unanimously elected provisional president of France. He resigned two years later, however, claiming he lacked sufficient governing power. In 1947, he formed a new political party that had only moderate electoral success, and in 1953 he left politics.

In 1958, however, a revolt by French colonists in Algeria led to a severe political crisis in France, and de Gaulle agreed to head a new emergency government. Considered the only leader of sufficient strength and stature to deal with the perilous situation, he was made the virtual dictator of France, with power to rule by decree for six months. A new constitution of his design was approved in a national referendum in September, and on December 21 he was elected president of the Fifth Republic.

During the next decade, President de Gaulle granted independence to Algeria and attempted to restore France to its former international stature by withdrawing from the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance and promoting the development of French atomic weapons. Student demonstrations and workers’ strikes in 1968 eroded his popular support, and in 1969 his proposals for constitutional reform were defeated in a national vote. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, at 79 years old, retired permanently. He died the following year.

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Opera star Maria Callas walks out of performance


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Year
1958
Month Day
January 02

On January 2, 1958, celebrated soprano Maria Callas walks off after the first act of a gala performance of Bellini’s Norma in Rome, claiming illness. The president of Italy and most of Rome’s high society were in the audience, and Callas, known for her volatile temperament, was sharply criticized. It was a characteristic move for the Greek-American diva, who packed as much drama into her personal life as she did on the stage.

Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants, Callas demonstrated her talent for singing at an early age. When she was 13, she went to Athens to study under the noted soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Her first major operatic role came in 1947, when she appeared in La Gioconda in Verona. Acclaimed for a powerful soprano voice that lent itself to the difficult coloratura roles, she was soon appearing in opera houses around the world. Her talents made possible the revival of 19th-century bel canto works by Bellini and others that had not been performed for decades. In 1954, the “Divine Callas” made her American debut in Chicago in the title role of Norma, a performance she repeated before a record audience at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Callas’ stormy personal life was closely watched and exaggerated by the press, as were her professional walkouts and tiffs with rivals. She divorced her husband of many years after becoming involved with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, but he later left her when he fell in love with the widowed Jackie Kennedy. In the 1970s, Callas’ career rapidly declined, and she died in 1977 from unknown causes at the age of 53.

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Nautilus submarine travels under North Pole

Year
1958
Month Day
August 03

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, the Nautilus’ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

Much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it, the Nautilus stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because its atomic engine needed no air and only a very small quantity of nuclear fuel. The uranium-powered nuclear reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines, allowing the Nautilus to travel underwater at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and on July 23, 1958, departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on “Operation Northwest Passage”—the first crossing of the North Pole by submarine. There were 116 men aboard for this historic voyage, including Commander William R. Anderson, 111 officers and crew, and four civilian scientists. The Nautilus steamed north through the Bering Strait and did not surface until it reached Point Barrow, Alaska, in the Beaufort Sea, though it did send its periscope up once off the Diomedes Islands, between Alaska and Siberia, to check for radar bearings. On August 1, the submarine left the north coast of Alaska and dove under the Arctic ice cap.

The submarine traveled at a depth of about 500 feet, and the ice cap above varied in thickness from 10 to 50 feet, with the midnight sun of the Arctic shining in varying degrees through the blue ice. At 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 3, 1958, Commander Anderson announced to his crew: “For the world, our country, and the Navy—the North Pole.” The Nautilus passed under the geographic North Pole without pausing. The submarine next surfaced in the Greenland Sea between Spitzbergen and Greenland on August 5. Two days later, it ended its historic journey at Iceland. For the command during the historic journey, President Dwight D. Eisenhower decorated Anderson with the Legion of Merit.

After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

READ MORE: 9 Groundbreaking Early Submarines 

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