It looks as though we’ve galloped up on another anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo Whatever. Which means it’s time for a fresh look at something I wrote about after the last anniversary, a column I called “Lie, Memory.”
At the time, I relied on a story in one of the newspapers from “the region” — the rural areas around Fort Wayne that made a person like me…well, very glad that he lived in the relative cosmopolitan oasis because man, did they get some strange crime in those parts.
The story gathered the recollections of local residents about the historic event. I don’t have it with me, but it was filled with anecdotes that ran like this:
“Yes, I remember it well. I was in kindergarten at the time, and the teacher brought a TV to class. We all gathered around and watched as Neil Armstrong made his way down the ladder of the landing module and said his historic words. Of course, at the time, I was more upset by the fact we had to miss our recess!”
You see the problem with this. The moon landing was in July, when most kindergarteners are far from classrooms and teachers. And the moon walk was late at night — for a kid, anyway. It was certainly after my bedtime, and I was 11. There’s simply no way that person was remembering correctly. But that’s what memory does. Thankfully.
(When I wrote that, I got a very angry letter from a reader, calling me a big ol’ poopyhead, spoiling people’s memories that way. Doesn’t anyone in the world care about facts?)
I bring this up because Jon Carroll repeated the old story about Gaylord Perry:
Chronicle sportswriter Harry Jupiter was standing next to Alvin Dark, who was then managing the Giants, as Perry took batting practice. Like a lot of pitchers, Perry was a less than impressive hitter. “This Perry kid is going to hit some home runs for you,” said Jupiter sarcastically.
“There’ll be a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run,” replied Dark.
Seven years later, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon and uttered his somewhat confused memorable words. An hour later, Gaylord Perry hit his first home run, at Candlestick Park against the Dodgers.
On the west coast? Possible. The first steps on the moon were at 8 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, so yeah, they could have been playing at Candlestick Park. But it’s always worth a stop at Snopes, where we see the first red flag — the story they research said man would be on the moon beforehand, and given that the July 20, 1969 game was during the day, it could only be true if…
Oh, who cares? There are more ridiculous stories tied to the moon landing than Barack Obama’s birth certificate. The “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” story. (Jews in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in the 1940s? Please.) The “heard the call to prayer on the moon, returned to Earth and promptly converted to Islam” story, which is surprisingly sturdy in the Muslim world, but again, preposterous. And, of course, the “they did it all in a studio” myth, my personal favorite.
I’m always amazed at what people are willing to believe. Of course, it helps when a story supports your own prejudices. Someone sent me the “dash don’t be silent” story a few weeks ago. Swore it happened right here in Detroit. Snopes, people, check Snopes first.
I have a killer day today, followed by the usual killer night. So a bit of killer bloggage:
Barack Obama’s Teleprompter self-destructs, and yet he carries on. (May I just note here how happy I am to see copy editors ignoring AP style on spelling the name of the device, which decreed it must be TelePromTer? I always hated that. Maybe the stylebook has changed; God knows I haven’t consulted it in years.)
Whaddaya know? Seymour Hersh was right.
And no, she’s not going away. Who could have seen this coming?
Back later, maybe, but probably not.