It was an ordinary day. Just looking at the back page of the newspaper when I came across the "This Date In History" column and found a couple of my favorites listed who had died on this date, December 31. One was Roberto Clemente who was one of my all-time favorite baseball players even though he didn't play for the Phillies while the other was Ricky Nelson who sang some of my favorite songs and was a member of the Ozzy and Harriet TV show in the 1950's. Roberto died in an airplane crash on December 31, 1972 when the airplane that he had chartered to take food and other relief supplies to the survivors of a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He died with four others and his body was never recovered. He made his major league debut in 1955 and spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I never faulted him for that, but did wish he had been Phillie. He won four National League batting titles as well as 12 Golden Glove Awards for his defensive abilities in the outfield. He was often compared to Jackie Robinson for his advancement of the African-American in baseball. He was a terror when he played my Phils and caused many nights of distress on my part when he went up against Philadelphia.
As for Ricky Nelson …. well, what can I say that you probably don't already remember. He was four years older than me and one of my favorite Rock and Roll singers. His soft mellow voice really caused young girls to go nuts when watching or listening to him on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" which aired from 1952 to 1966. His 1973 record "Poor Little Fool" holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on Billboard Magazine's then-newly created Hot 100 Chart. He was ranked #49 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time. On December 31, 1985, Ricky and his band members took off from Guntersville, Alabama for a New Year's Eve party in Dallas, Texas. The plane crashed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas, less than two miles from the landing strip. Seven of the nine on the plane died in the crash. Nelson was one of the seven. I have several of his All-Time Greatest Hits CDs and play them often in the car. The newspaper column today brought back the bad memories of two of my favorite performer's deaths on December 31st. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.