History Book – Niagara Falls, and fanless baseball

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, April 27th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It—the WORLD History Book.

Today, the fifth anniversary of the first “fanless” baseball game in major league history. Plus, 55 years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson commits troops to the Dominican Republic. 

EICHER: Up first, the governor of New York creates one of the nation’s first official state parks—it’s a watershed moment. Here’s Paul Butler.


PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Today we begin on the Niagara River. The waterway links two of North America’s Great Lakes: Erie and Ontario. The strait is nearly 36 miles long and descends over 326 feet between the sister lakes—more than 200 feet of that occurs all at once at Niagara falls.


In the 1860’s a visionary park designer and land planner named Frederick Olmsted, begins lobbying New York state officials and businessmen to protect Niagara Falls. He argues for limiting industrial development along the river so that it can be set aside for public enjoyment.

It takes 20 years, but on April 30th, 1883, New York Governor Grover Cleveland signs legislation authorizing eminent domain—granting Olmstead authority to locate and set aside private lands for state preservation. 

In 1885, they create the Niagara Reservation, and in the process, start one the first official state parks in the United States. 

TOURISM FILM: Getting that close to the American falls is exciting. It does wonderful things to hairdos, glasses, and human egos…

The Niagara Reservation is the longest continually operated state park in the nation. The popular geographic feature hosted more than 30-million visitors last year. 

Next, April 28th, 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses the nation:

JOHNSON: The United States government has been informed by military authorities in the Dominican Republic that American lives are in danger. 

The political tensions on the island had been brewing for years. 

In 1961, the president of the Dominican Republic had been assassinated. After two years of military rule, the U.S. facilitated democratic elections. An educator and historian named Juan Bosch won that election, but was overthrown by the island’s military a few months later. Military leaders installed their own president who proved very unpopular, and splinter groups began attempting their own political coups. 

The U.S. ambassador to the Domincan Republic informed Johnson’s White House that the instability was becoming a threat to the more than 1,000 Americans residing there. 

JOHNSON: I have ordered the secretary of defense to put the necessary American troops ashore…

Behind the scenes, U.S. intelligence believed Cuba was trying to leverage the situation to install a communist government: leading Johnson to defend the American military presence.

JOHNSON: The American nation cannot, must not, and will not permit the establishment of another communist government in the Western Hemisphere. 

NEWSREEL: President Johnson ordered the troop movement when it appeared doubtful that a stable government could be established immediately… 

The military operation was at times quite bloody. Forty U.S. servicemen and as many as 3-thousand islanders died during the summer of ‘65. American forces withdrew in the fall after a new election. Juan Bosch lost to Joaquin Balaguer, who had formerly served in the government in the late ‘50s. 

During his 12 years as president, he rebuilt the island nation’s infrastructure and schools but ruled with an iron fist—imprisoning and sometimes even killing political rivals.

And finally, April 29th, 2015:

THORNE: It’s the Orioles and we welcome you to Camden Yard in Baltimore. 

The Chicago Whitesox and Baltimore Orioles make Major League Baseball history. 

THORNE: Hi everybody, I’m Gary Thorne, and welcome, circumstances all of us wish were different, this ballpark today is going to be empty for the first time in Major League history a ball game, a regular season game, will be played with no fans in attendance. 

The reason for the empty stadium was social unrest in Baltimore. Two weeks earlier, Freddie Gray died in police custody. Video footage during his arrest showed the 25-year old man being tossed into the back of a police van—not buckled in. He later died of traumatic spinal injuries that many believe occurred during what’s known as a “rough ride”—when police stop and start suddenly, bouncing the person around in the back. 

After Gray’s funeral, some protestors looted and burned cars. The violence intensified, leading the mayor to enforce a curfew and restrict groups in the city. 

AUDIO: This preliminary curfew will last for one week…

Major League Baseball decides to go ahead with the game between the White Sox and the Orioles, but prohibits fans from entering the stadium. 

GAME: 1-1 delivery and he got ahold of that one! 

Camden Yard isn’t completely empty though, as there are three times the usual number of reporters. Footage of the game is surreal as player introductions and organ themes echo unheard and athletes make plays without cheers. 

GAME: 1 ball, 2 strike count. Britton’s delivery to him, swung on and missed. The ballgame is over. 

The Orioles win the game 8 to 2, but the team is subdued after the victory as the events happening around the stadium weigh heavily on the players.

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

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Niagara Falls are seen from Niagara Falls, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. 

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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