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There’s Something About December 18

A curious collection of individuals was born on this date. If you’re looking for a slice of American culture, here it is religion, sports, movies. You probably couldn’t get two people much more opposite than Charles Wesley and Ty Cobb. (If you don’t know anything about Ty Cobb, look him up. He was quite the character.)

So here’s the question: Which one has had the biggest impact on our culture? On you?

(From today’s Writer’s Almanac):

–It is the birthday of hymn writer Charles Wesley, (books by this author) born in Epworth, England (1708), who wrote more than 6,000 hymns, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “Rejoice, the Lord is King.” Wesley’s verses make up a sixth of the official hymns of the Methodist Episcopal Church today.

–Baseball legend Ty Cobb was born today Tyrus Raymond Cobb, in Narrows, Georgia (1886). By the time he had retired from baseball, Ty Cobb had set more than 90 records, including highest lifetime batting average (.367), most batting titles (12), and most runs scored (2,245). He also stole 892 bases during his career. It was rumored that Ty Cobb kept his spikes filed to razor-sharp points to cut infielders when he slid into base.

–It is the birthday of filmmaker Steven Spielberg, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1946). His parents had a difficult marriage, and young Spielberg escaped the house during the day and made amateur movies with his father’s Super-8 camera. He made two films about World War II and a movie about a UFO invasion, starring his sisters as victims. Steven Spielberg became famous with Jaws (1975), which was the very first summer blockbuster, and he topped his success seven years later with E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), about a young boy recovering from the breakup of his parents’ marriage when he befriends an alien left behind by his spaceship. The movie E.T. became the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time.

And one who died on this date:

–It was on this day in 1737 that violin maker Antonio Stradivari died in Cremona, Italy. Most often referred to by his Latin name, Stradivarius, he developed a violin design that has served as a model ever since.

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