History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is  Monday, June 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The WORLD Radio History Book.

This week, a hang glider pilot crosses the English Channel using pedal-power. Plus, a space exploration milestone.

EICHER: But first, 75 years ago, a teenager sets a baseball record that stands to this day. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: In the years following America’s entrance into World War II, young men from all walks of life volunteered for the armed forces. Millions heading off to war affected every facet of life: farming, industry, education—and even America’s past time. Major League Baseball teams began running out of available players.

In 1943, scouts for the Cincinnati Reds discovered Joe Nuxhall—a left-handed, 6’2″ ninth grader with a mean fastball. Nuxhall’s first game was June 10th, 1944. The Reds were down 13 to 0 in the ninth inning. The manager put the unproven 15-year old pitcher in for relief—making him the youngest person to ever play in a Major League Baseball game.

NUXHALL: All of a sudden, Mr. McKechnie tells me to go warm up, and then have to go out there and face these guys…it was mind boggling!

That’s Joe Nuxhall from an interview with WCPO news in Cincinnati. Nuxhall retired the first batter, but then gave up five runs on five walks, two hits, and one wild pitch. He spent the next 8 years in the minor leagues before returning to the Reds in 1952—going on to a long career with the organization, first as a pitcher and then a broadcaster.

NUXHALL: As I’ve said before, I’m no different than anyone else. I chose a profession that has you in the limelight.

He retired from the Reds organization in 2004 as one Cincinnati’s most beloved sports figures.

Next: animals and the U.S. space program. In 1948 American researchers began launching primates into space.

AUDIO: [Sound of rocket launch]

The first monkey launch occurred June 11th, 1948. The passenger was a rhesus monkey named Albert. The rocket reached an altitude of more than 39 miles, but the monkey died of suffocation during flight.

AUDIO: [Sound of rocket launch]

A year later, June 14th, 1949, Americans launch a second rhesus monkey. This time the rocket reached an altitude of 83 miles, making Albert the second—the first monkey in space. Albert survived lift-off and the environment in the capsule, but died after re-entry when the parachute failed.

FILM: [Rocket sound] They’re off at 2000 miles per hour…

It took years before monkey passengers began surviving these space tests—like this one from 1952 with another monkey named Albert.

FILM: Anxious scientists rush to the scene and discover the animal crew weathered the flight safely. It’s Albert’s moment of triumph—he’s the world’s first space cadet. 

And finally, 40 years ago this week: June 12th, 1979.

FILM: Ok Bryan, Zodiacs are in position. Anytime you feel it’s good, go ahead. Ok, there’s a little bit of a lull now, so I’m going to go right now.

A little after 5 a.m. on the south east English coast, bicyclist and hang glider pilot Bryan Allen begins pedaling the 70-pound experimental aircraft: the Gossamer Albatross. After months of intense training, the young pilot attempt to fly across the English Channel in a human-powered plane.

The team figures on a two-hour flight, but an unexpected headwind quickly slows progress. Barely skimming above the surface of the channel, Allen begins to waver. About 100 minutes into the flight, he’s still seven miles from France. Discouraged, he signals for assistance.

As a Zodiac rescue boat comes into position to snag the plane, Allen has to increase his altitude. When he reaches 15 feet, the winds decrease and he waves off the boat.  

FILM: You’re doing great Bryan. Looking good.

After a flight of two hours and 49 minutes, Allen finally lands on the French shore.

FILM: [Sounds of celebration]

Audio from the 1979 documentary: “Gossamer Albatross: Flight of Imagination.”

Allen goes on to set other human-powered world records in distance and duration. Today, Bryan Allen is a software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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