2014.02.05 Happy birthday to Joe Travis, Mookie and me

Another birthday is just over the horizon and, as always, I’m a bit disappointed with the group of people who share it. There are several internet websites that list the “famous” people born on any date you choose and for February 9, it’s a mediocre lot at best.

That said, while there are hundreds of supposedly well-known folks on the lists that I’ve never heard of, there are a few, very few as it turns out, that I’m actually a fan of. There’s even a president in the group, but, unfortunately he’s best known for his death.

Way back in 1404, Constantine Dragases, the last Byzantine emperor, was born. He’s the first of a largely lackluster list. Japanese samurai Shimazu Yoshihisa was born in 1533, Italian playwright Giambattista Andreini in 1578 and Dutch historian John Meursius a year later.

I first recognized a name in the 1600s: George Hamilton, born in 1666. Sadly, it wasn’t the actor known for his incredibly deep tan, but instead a British soldier better known (by his family at least) as the first Earl of Orkney.

Then, in 1773, probably the most important member of my birthday club was born: William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States. He was elected at age 67 in 1840, the oldest president ever elected at that time. He turned 68 before his inauguration. He never made it to age 69.

Harrison gave a two-hour inaugural speech after refusing to dress appropriately for the bad Inauguration Day weather. He caught a cold and died a month later, becoming the president with the shortest term in office, probably not the claim to fame he was hoping for.

It was well over a hundred years before another truly well-known person was born on February 9. I’m not counting composer Walenty Kratzer, writer Felix Dahn, or Norwegian figure skater Martin Stixrud. The name of German engineer Wilhelm Maybach may not ring a bell with many people either, but he designed the first Mercedes automobile.

In 1907, a famous athlete was born on my birthday. Aubrey “Dit” Clapper was named to the  NHL Hall of Fame after his career with the Boston Bruins. If you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure he did not go on to invent The Clapper.

Singer/actress Carmen Miranda was born in 1909, as well as former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. One hundred years ago was a banner year for February 9 births as country singer Ernest Tubb, stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and innovative baseball team owner Bill Veeck were all born in 1914. 

Roger Mudd, television news anchor, was born in 1928 and pioneering television evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong in 1930, followed by Canadian country singer Stompin’ Tom Connors in 1936. Singer/songwriter Carole King was born in 1942. Was there anyone alive in the 1970s who didn’t own her “Tapestry” album? I can name at least one person—me.

A year after King, actor Joe Pesci was born, followed two years later by actress Mia Farrow—that’s Mrs. Sinatra to you, pal. Then, in 1947, my favorite person on the list was born.

I’ve been a fan of singer Joe Ely since the late 1970s and have a bunch of cassettes to prove it. I also have eight of his compact discs.  

While he’s a star in his native Texas, he’s never had a major hit record on his own. In the 1980s, though, he became friends with The Clash and sang backup vocals—in Spanish—on their hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” You can clearly hear Joe on the record, which made it to number one in the UK.

After a career of over 40 years, Joe had his highest-charting album ever in 2011 at age 64. Maybe he’ll make it big yet.

Baseball fans probably remember Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets, whose hit in the 1986 World Series was misplayed by Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox, costing Boston the World Series. Charlie Sheen later paid $93,000 for the “Mookie Ball.” Mookie was actually born the same year as me, according to most sources.

Finally, country singer Travis Tritt, born in 1963, may be the most familiar name on the list to many. He not only had a hit named “Country Club,” he’s a member of my birthday club.

I’m afraid those are the best names I could come up with, unless there’s some famous person lying about their birth date. If February 9 is your birthday, welcome to  our little group. We need all the help we can get.