August 27, 2012
Neil Armstrong & the Landing of Apollo 11
Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday at the age of 82. Of the twelve men to have ever stepped foot on another planet, Armstrong's passing leaves only eight still with us, the youngest of whom is 76-years-old. There are few words that can describe someone who had such a profound—and positive—impact on the course of human history, especially one who did so with the grace and humility that Neil Armstrong showed throughout his life. It was the saddest of news.
Below is a re-print of an article I wrote at Wezen-Ball.com three years ago, as the world celebrated the greatest achievement of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and the 400,000 people who helped make the Apollo program a success. It's a small way to remember such an important man and his legacy.
At 4:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, July 20, 1969—forty years ago today—one of the most remarkable feats in the history of mankind occurred: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module, named "Eagle", on the surface of the moon. Apollo 11's mission to land on the moon captivated the world in such a way that the landing was watched back on Earth by hundreds of millions of people, easily the largest television audience ever at the time.
"...pregame ceremonies before an American League baseball game between the hometown Pilots and the Minnesota Twins were interrupted by an announcement of the moon landing. The fans cheered, stood up and sang 'America the Beautiful.'"
The Twins-Pilots game wasn't the only one interrupted, though. The Cubs and Phillies were in the third inning of the second game of their doubleheader in Philadelphia when the announcement was made. The game was stopped for five minutes while players lined up on the foul lines and offered a silent prayer. A recording of Kate Smith's "God Bless America" was then played in the stadium before play finally resumed. There's a great image of the moment in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:
Members of the Chicago Cubs (third base line) and Philadelphia Phillies join umpires and 12,393 paying customers in a moment of silent prayer for safe completion of the Apollo 11 mission. The scene occurred during the second game of a doubleheader at Connie Mack Stadium.
But the live games weren't the only ones getting interrupted. For anyone watching the games at home on television, they were subject to the whims of the stations' producers, and those whims, more often than not, were going to go with the excitement on the lunar surface. Of course, this probably didn't bother the vast majority of people at home that day, but that doesn't mean everyone was excited about it:
"In the Kansas City home of L.L. Moore, the activity of the Apollo team on the surface of the moon ranked second to the battle for third place between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox in the Western Division of the American League.
It's in New York, though, where we have the best account of what happened during the moon landing. It was Bat Day that Sunday afternoon, and the Yankees were playing the Senators. The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth. With runners on the corners and no one out, Jack Aker faced Ken McMullen. The count was 1-2 when the 32,933 paying fans heard Bob Shepard's voice interrupt the game:
'Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please,' came the voice of Bob Shepard, the public address announcer.
I can't think of a better place to be to hear such incredible news than in the company of 33,000 other excited people (well, other than at home watching it live, I mean). I can only imagine the feeling of awe and wonder that everyone in attendance that day must have felt when Bob Shepard made that announcement. I suspect no one remembers the 11th inning Gene Michaels basehit that won the game for the Yankees that afternoon, and I doubt that it was even much of a topic of discussion as people exited the ballpark. The two astronauts on the moon must've been much too intriguing.