2010: Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and placekicker George Blanda, one of only three players to play in four different decades, dies at age 83 in Alameda, California. Blanda played 26 seasons of professional football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement in 1976. He played for the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders and holds the record for most extra points kicked.
2009: Author and journalist William Safire, best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times and the author of "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine, dies from pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Rockville, Maryland, at the age of 79. He's seen here receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2006.
2008: China National Space Administration astronaut Zhai Zhigang becomes the first Chinese person to perform a spacewalk while flying on Shenzhou 7, the third human spaceflight mission of the Chinese space program.
2004: Record producer Phil Spector is charged in an indictment with murder in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson at his mansion in 2003. A first trial would end in a mistrial because of a hung jury in 2007, but Spector was ultimately convicted in 2009 of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life.
2003: Actor Donald O'Connor, best known for his role as Gene Kelly's friend and colleague Cosmo Brown in "Singin' in the Rain," dies from congestive heart failure at the age of 78 in Calabasas, California.
1999: Baseball's Detroit Tigers play their last game in Tiger Stadium after 87 years in the stadium. The final game was an 8–2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. In the decade after the Tigers left the stadium for their new home, Comerica Park, several rejected redevelopment and preservation efforts finally gave way to demolition of the stadium on Sept. 21, 2009, although the playing field remains on the site.
1998: Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback and kicker Doak Walker, who won two NFL championships in his six years with the Detroit Lions, dies at the age of 71 as a result of injuries suffered previously in a skiing accident. Walker led the NFL in scoring twice (1950 and 1955) and tallied 534 points in his career (330 on field goals and extra points). He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1950 and also earned the Heisman Trophy as a junior at Southern Methodist University in 1948. The Doak Walker Award, first awarded in 1990, honors the top college football running back in America. Walker is also an inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame.
1998: Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hits his record-setting 69th and 70th home runs in the last game of the season. McGwire had broken Roger Maris' single-season home run record earlier in the month, hitting his 62nd homer. His new mark of 70 would stand until Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit 73 in 2001.
1997: Communications are suddenly lost with the Mars Pathfinder space probe, which, along with its lightweight wheeled robotic Mars rover named Sojourner, explored and analyzed the Martian atmosphere, climate and geology since its landing on July 4, 1997. Although mission managers tried to restore full communications during the following five months, the successful mission was terminated on March 10, 1998.
1996: Baltimore Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar spits in face of umpire John Hirschbeck during a heated argument over a called third strike during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Alomar would be suspended for the first five regular season games in 1997.
1994: More than 350 Republican congressional candidates sign the "Contract with America," a 10-point platform they pledge to enact if voters send a GOP majority to the U.S. House in November. The contract's co-author and architect, Rep. Newt Gingrich, then House minority whip, would become speaker of the House after the Republicans took control in the House.
1993: Gen. James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, an aviation pioneer who earned the Medal of Honor as commander of the Doolittle Raid, the first retaliatory air raid on Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, dies at the age of 96 in Pebble Beach, California.
1991: The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocks, 7-7, on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States, sending the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. Thomas would be confirmed by a 52–48 vote on Oct. 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century.
1990: The Motion Picture Association of America creates the new NC-17 ("No Children Under 17 Admitted") rating, as its official rating for adult-oriented films bearing the MPAA seal. About a week later, "Henry & June" would become the first film to be released with the new rating.
1988: Three days after his win in Seoul, South Korea, Canada's Ben Johnson is stripped of his Olympic gold medal for the 100-meter sprint after failing a drug test.
1987: NFL players start a 24-day strike that would wipe out one week of the league's season. The games scheduled for the third week of the season would be canceled, but the games for weeks four through six were played with replacement players and some veterans who crossed the picket line. Having failed to achieve their demands, and given the willingness of the players to cross the picket lines and networks to broadcast the replacement games, the union voted to end the strike on Oct. 15, 1987, without a new collective bargaining agreement in place.
1986: Metallica bassist Cliff Burton is killed in a tour bus accident in rural Sweden as the band was touring in support of its "Master of Puppets" album. Burton was sleeping in a bunk on the bus when it skidded off the road and overturned, throwing him from the bus, which then landed on him. Burton, who was replaced in Metallica by bassist Jason Newsted, was inducted with the rest of the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Pictured is a memorial near the crash site along with a CD of "Master of Puppets."
1984: Pop-punk singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne, known for No. 1 hits such as "Complicated", "Sk8er Boi" and "Girlfriend," is born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.
1982: Rapper Lil Wayne, best known for the hits "Lollipop," "Go D.J." and "She Will," is born under the birth name Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1981: Actor Robert Montgomery, an Oscar nominee for 1937's "Night Must Fall" and 1941's "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," dies of cancer at age 77 in New York City. Montgomery, who also starred in movies such as "The Divorcee," "Private Lives" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," also twice served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He made his uncredited directing debut on "They Were Expendable" when director John Ford fell ill and couldn't film some sequences and later directed movies such as "Lady in the Lake" and "Ride the Pink Horse." He also hosted an Emmy Award-winning television series, "Robert Montgomery Presents," in the 1950s and served as a media consultant and coach for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
1973: Nolan Ryan strikes out 16 over 11 innings, setting a new live-ball era (1920–present) season record of 383 strikeouts, breaking Sandy Koufax's old record by one.
1972: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow ("Seven," "Emma," "Shakespeare in Love") is born in Los Angeles, California.
1965: Actress Clara Bow, who rose to stardom in silent film during the 1920s, dies of a heart attack at age 60 in Culver City, California. Bow became known as "The It Girl" thanks to her role as a plucky shopgirl in the 1927 silent film "It." She appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies, including hits such as "Mantrap" and "Wings," and was one of the top box office draws of the late 1920s.
1964: The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission after its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren, publicly issues a report concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy and wounding Texas Gov. John Connally, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald a few days later. The commission's findings have proven controversial and have been both challenged and supported by later studies.
1964: The Beach Boys appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show" for the first time, performing "I Get Around."
1956: U.S. Air Force Capt. Milburn G. Apt becomes the first man to exceed Mach 3 while flying the Bell X-2 rocket-powered plane. Shortly thereafter, the craft went out of control and Apt was killed in the resulting crash.
1954: The late-night talk show "Tonight Starring Steve Allen" premieres on television. The show was the first late-night talk show and the first version of what eventually would become known as "The Tonight Show," whose other hosts over the years have included Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.
1947: Rock singer Meat Loaf, best known for his "Bat Out of Hell" album trilogy, is born under the birth name Michael Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas.
1941: The SS Patrick Henry is launched, becoming the first of more than 2,700 Liberty ships to be built by the United States during World War II. Liberty ships were cargo ships designed to be cheap and quick to build, replacing riveting with welding and using oil-fired boilers. The ships earned their name when, during the launch of the Patrick Henry, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that this new class of ships would bring liberty to Europe.
1940: The Tripartite Pact is signed in Berlin by Germany, Japan and Italy, establishing the Axis Powers of World War II. Pictured is the Japanese embassy in Berlin clad in the flags of the three signatories of the pact.
1938: The British ocean liner "Queen Elizabeth," then the largest passenger liner ever built, is launched at Clydebank in Scotland. She first entered service in February 1940 as a troopship in World War II, and it was not until October 1946 that she would serve in her intended role as an ocean liner.
1936: TV host and producer Don Cornelius, best known as the creator of the dance and musical variety TV show "Soul Train," which he also hosted from 1971 until 1993, is born in Chicago, Illinois. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the age of 75 on Feb. 1, 2012. At the time of his suicide, Cornelius had been suffering from seizures for the past 15 years, a complication of a 21-hour brain operation he underwent in 1982 to correct a congenital deformity in his cerebral arteries.
1934: Actor Wilford Brimley, known for his roles on TV in "Our House" and "The Waltons" and in movies such as "The Firm," "The China Syndrome," "Cocoon" and "The Thing," is born in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1930: Bobby Jones wins the U.S. Amateur Championship to become the only golfer to ever win the (pre-Masters) Grand Slam, or all four major championships in the same calendar year. The old structure of the grand slam was the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.
1917: French painter Edgar Degas, regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, dies at the age of 83 in Paris.
1908: The first production Ford Model T car leaves the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan. The car, which had a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, went on sale on Oct. 1, 1908, with versions starting at $850. The car, which is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, would be produced for 19 years, during which time more than 15 million were sold.
1905: The physics journal Annalen der Physik receives Albert Einstein's paper "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?", introducing the equation E=mc2.
1903: The Old 97, a Southern Railway train officially known as the Fast Mail, derails bear near Danville, Virginia, while en route from Monroe, Virginia, to Spencer, North Carolina, killing 11 people and injuring seven. The crash, dubbed the "Wreck of Old 97," would spawn a famous railroad ballad of the same name.
1892: Book matches are patented by Joshua Pusey of Lima, Ohio.
1854: The steamship SS Arctic sinks off Cape Race, Newfoundland, with 300 people on board after colliding with the 250-ton French iron screw steamer SS Vesta in the fog, marking the first great disaster in the Atlantic Ocean.
1825: The first steam locomotive to haul a passenger train is operated by George Stephenson's Stockton & Darlington's line in England. The engine "Locomotion No. 1" pulled 34 wagons and the first purpose-built passenger car, dubbed Experiment, on its 21-mile journey.
1822: Jean-Francois Champollion announces that he has deciphered the Rosetta Stone's Egyptian hieroglyphs. Pictured is Champollion's table of hieroglyphic phonetic characters, now on display in the British Museum.
1821: Mexico's independence from Spain is formally recognized.
1777: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, becomes the capital of the United States for one day when the Continental Congress flees Philadelphia, which had been captured by the British. After meeting one day at the Lancaster County Courthouse, they moved still farther away, to York, Pennsylvania.
1722: American revolutionary leader Samuel Adams is born in Boston. Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States.
1660: Vincent de Paul, a French priest of the Catholic Church who dedicated himself to serving the poor, dies at age 79 in Paris, France. He was canonized as a saint in 1737.
1590: Pope Urban VII dies of malaria 13 days after being chosen as the pope, making his reign the shortest papacy in history.
1540: Pope Paul III issues a papal bull establishing the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, as a religious order. This Czechoslovakian fresco by Johann Christoph Handke from the mid-1700s shows the pope bestowing the papal bull on Saint Ignatius of Loyola.