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Yesterday in La Crosse

Russian man in space! 59 years ago

Brad Williams

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In April of 1961, the Soviet Union won another battle in the space race, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth.  U.S. President John Kennedy admitted that America was behind in the space competition, and a House committee in Washington heard the director of NASA say that reports of the Russian space flight were true, and not a hoax.  Astronaut Alan Shepard was supposed to have been America’s first man in space in April of 1960, but his mission had been postponed several times, and he didn’t fly until May 5th of 1961.  

The Milwaukee Braves and the Chicago Cubs were featured on the first baseball Game of the Week for the season on CBS.  Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese announced the Saturday games.  The highlight of the ’61 baseball season would be the home-run race between Yankee teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, which Maris won with 61 homers, beating Babe Ruth’s single-season record.   

The Grammy Awards were given out for only the third time.  Big winners included Ray Charles, Henry Mancini, and Ella Fitzgerald.  The record of the year was the theme to “A Summer Place,” by Percy Faith, while Bob Newhart won album of the year and best new artist for his “Button-Down Mind” comedy record, in 1961, yesterday in La Crosse.    

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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