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Fourth of July and This Month in YesterYear History - July

This month, before we dive into the monthly history review, I'd like to take a brief minute and include my annual 4th of July commentary.  I usually feature it in a separate post, but with Camp YesterYear starting soon, I didn't want to just throw it out there and immediately get replaced by several summer-themed articles.  

I typically post the same Independence Day article every year but edit it slightly based on my mood.  This year is no different; it's changed a little, but the gist is the same.  

If you're not interested, no hard feelings; just skip past it to the July Month in History.  I promise I won't write your name down in a little notebook and shame you forever.  Kidding!  

🎆Happy 4th of July, everyone!🎆

Growing up, my family didn't really celebrate holidays except for maybe Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  We barely even mentioned these "lesser holidays" were even a holiday.  Independence Day wasn't any different, and when I think of the 4th of Julys from my childhood, I can only remember a few things.  

I always enjoyed helping Dad get our American flag out of the garage and hanging it on the front of the house.  He reserved this act for only Memorial Day and Independence Day, which made it even more special to me.  After that was complete, I'd just hang around the house, avoiding the heat the best I could.  I'd watch TV or play games on the computer, counting down the hours until Dad finished whatever project he was working on to grill some burgers or hotdogs that pretty much summed up the bulk of our annual celebration.  

After dinner, I'd find something to do in my room and later try to catch the New York City fireworks on the TV.  My parents usually watched the news or something like This Old House, so I'd have to beg to watch for a few minutes.  Hard to believe it in today's world, but we only had the one TV.  My parents had one in their bedroom, but I only got to watch that one for certain things later on, like pro wrestling on Mondays when they had other things they'd rather watch.

When I was in high school, my parents began their own tradition of watching the Boston Pops Orchestra play patriotic music on PBS.  However, by that age, I'd have rather watched paint dry.

My parents were very against us having our own firecrackers.  That's probably because when I was about 4 or 5, my Dad set off some fireworks in the street, and one launched itself directly onto a neighbor's roof in a fiery blaze of explosive American glory!  I can vaguely remember him scooping me up and sprinting into the house to hide, but that was the end of lighting off fireworks in our household.  

After that, my parents would get us a pack of sparklers every year, and my brother and I would stand in the driveway as soon as it got dark and wave them around or chase each other, trying to see who could burn who for a few minutes.  One summer, I spent my allowance buying some fireworks from my neighbor when he returned from his vacation in Pennsylvania, where fireworks were legal to purchase.  My Mom confiscated them, and years later, when I found them hidden somewhere, I lit them off one day when they weren't home.  

Sorry, Mom.

As difficult as it was to purchase fireworks in New York, where I now live, even Walmart and CVS have huge fireworks sections.  Freedom!

The Independence Day/4th of July holiday celebrates all that is America.  This country might currently be a train wreck, but it's still the greatest place to live in the world.  We should all be extremely grateful to be here, whether born here or not.  We should thank those who have gone before us who worked hard, sacrificed, and gave everything to build this into the greatest nation on Earth.

In 2019, the guys at The Retro Network asked what pop culture reference, such as a moment from a television show or movie, makes us think most about America.  My answer then, as it is now, was easy to think of:

The 4th of July nighttime baseball game from the movie "The Sandlot" makes me think of America most of all.  When Ray Charles' rendition of "America, the Beautiful" plays, it makes me feel happy and excited for the future, melancholy for the past, and proud and patriotic all at the same time.  

Please take 2 minutes to watch the clip above.  It's worth it, I promise.  

If the video doesn't load on my site, CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ON YOUTUBE.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!  Here's to a Happy Summer!

Below is your monthly look at pop culture history from 20 (2004), 25 (1999), and 30 (1994) years ago!   
Here, you'll find a little time capsule of what was significant in our lives back then.  Hopefully, as you read these brief synopses of the past, you'll begin to remember the who, when, and where of your memories from those years.  


2004:  July tends to be a pretty slow month, news-wise.  On July 3rd, Maria Sharapova became the first Russian to win at Wimbledon when she defeated defending champion Serena Williams.  On Independence Day, the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid at the site of the former World Trade Center.  That same day, in tennis, Roger Federer won his 2nd of 5 straight Wimbledon titles.  On the 13th, the American League won the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, defeating the NL 9-4 in Houston.  On July 16th, Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of home confinement.  Not my Martha!  Chicago's Millenium Park, described as the nation's first and most ambitious architectural project of the new millennium, opens on July 16th.  On the 22nd, the 37th San Diego Comic-Con begins.  On the 30th, "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" is released in theaters.  Come on, Pookie!  Let's burn this mother down!  

1999:  The Scottish Parliament officially opens, as the Queen transfers power from the London Scottish Offices to the new Scottish Executive in Edinburgh.  Pete Sampras defeats Andre Agassi to win in men's tennis at Wimbledon on July 4th.  On the 8th, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," the 3rd book in the series, is published.  The same day, Allen Davis is executed by electrocution, the last use of the electric chair in Florida.  On July 9th, "American Pie" opened in theaters nationwide.  They just don't (can't?) make movies like this anymore.  The American League wins the All-Star game 4-1 at Fenway Park in Boston.  Pedro Martinez strikes out the first four batters, winning the MVP.  On the 16th, JFK, Jr. died in a plane crash when the plane he was flying went down near Martha's Vineyard, with his wife Carolyn and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette on board.  On the 18th, New York Yankees pitcher David Cone becomes the 15th pitcher to throw a perfect game.  The infamous "Woodstock 99" festival opens on July 22nd but closes early due to riots and violence.  On the 25th, Lance Armstrong wins the first of seven straight Tour de France races but is later disqualified.  Tony Hawk becomes the first skateboarder to land a "900" on the 27th.  Your guess as to what that is is as good as mine.  On the 31st, NASA intentionally crashes the Discovery Lunar Prospector into the moon's surface, ending its mission to detect water on the moon.  

1994:  On July 1, Yassar Arafat returns to the Gaza Strip, while in Europe, Germany's Roman Herzog is sworn in as President.  On the 2nd, John Wayne Bobbitt and his fiance Kristina Elliot were arrested for domestic battery after John punched the former Vegas dancer in the head.  Months later, he'd spend 15 days in jail after being convicted.  Also, on the 2nd, a US Air DC-9 goes down in North Carolina, killing 37.  July 3rd is the deadliest day in Texas road traffic history when forty-six people were killed in motor vehicle crashes.  Hootie and the Blowfish's debut album, "Cracked Rear View," drops on July 5th.  Hold my hand, Hootie!  On that same day, a website that none of us could live without today first appeared on the internet as Jeff Bezos launched "Amazon."  On July 6th, the iconic film "Forrest Gump" hits theaters.  On the 8th, a preliminary trial ruled there is sufficient evidence to send OJ Simpson to trial.  On the 12th, the American League wins the All-Star Game 7-8 in Pittsburgh.  The NL has to win sometime, right?  The next day, Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, is sentenced to two years in prison for his assault on Nancy Kerrigan.  "The Three Tenors" Placido Domingo, Luciana Pavarotti, and "the other guy" (as Seinfeld called it) Jose Carreras performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Dodger Stadium with an estimated worldwide audience of 1.8 billion viewers.  On July 17, Hulk Hogan defeats Ric Flair to become WCW World Champion for the first time.  On the 18th, Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" was released and won the Grammy Record and Song of the Year.  Crayola introduces scented crayons on the same day.  The New York Jets sign USA Soccer's goalkeeper, Tony Meola, as their new placekicker.  He didn't make it past tryouts; it was mainly a media spectacle.  On July 22nd, OJ Simpson pleads, "Absolutely, 100%, Not Guilty."  Mets pitcher Doc Gooden enters the Betty Ford Clinic for substance abuse on the same day.  On the 23rd, the longest rain delay in baseball history (to that time) of 3 hours and 40 minutes takes place.  When it ends, the Mets lose to the Giants 4-2.  


2004: "Spider-Man 2"   

Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, this movie is the second installment in director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and serves as a sequel to Spider-Man (2002).  Produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Marvel Enterprises, it was distributed by Sony Pictures.  The film stars Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, alongside Kirsten Dunst and James Franco.  It's set two years after the events of Spider-Man; the film finds Peter Parker struggling to stop scientist Dr. Otto Octavius from recreating the dangerous experiment that killed his wife and left him neurologically fused to mechanical tentacles.  Parker also deals with an existential crisis between his dual identities that appear to be stripping him of his spider powers.  

Filming began in April 2003 in New York City, and in December, reshoots and other additional scenes were filmed in Los Angeles.  

Spider-Man 2 premiered at the Mann Village Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 2004, and was released in conventional and IMAX on June 30. It received critical acclaim, praising the emotional weight of the story and the visual effects.  The film grossed $788 million worldwide, making it the third-highest-grossing film of the year. The American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of 2004.  

The film is widely regarded by comic book fans as one of the greatest superhero films ever made and serves as a blueprint for future movies in the genre. It was followed by Spider-Man 3 in 2007, before the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)'s Spider-Man franchise a decade later.

1999: "Wild, Wild West" 

Wild Wild West is a "Steampunk Western" directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock. It's based on a story from Jim and John Thomas and loosely adapted from the 1960s Wild Wild West television program. It is the only production since the 1980 film More Wild Wild West that features the characters from the original series.  

Starring Will Smith (who previously worked with Sonnenfeld on Men in Black) and Kevin Kline as two United States Secret Service Agents who must work together to protect President Ulysses S. Grant (Kline in a dual role) and the entire United States from all manner of dangerous threats during the American Old West.  The film had a supporting cast of Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine, and M. Emmet Walsh.

The film was released theatrically in the United States on June 30, 1999, by Warner Bros and was produced on a $170 million budget.  It was one of the most expensive films ever made, adjusted for inflation at the time of its release.  Unfortunately, it was a commercial failure, blamed mostly on numerous rewrites, grossing only $222.1 globally.  The movie received mostly negative reviews from critics and was nominated for eight Razzies.  

The song "Wild, Wild West" by Will Smith, made specifically for the film, was near the top of many music charts.  

1994: "The Lion King" 

The Lion King was released in 1994 and is often considered one of the last of the "Disney Renaissance" animated movies, at least before computer-generated films such as Toy Story dominated the market.  The story itself is inspired by William Shakespeare's Hamlet, along with elements from the Bible, such as the stories of Joseph and Moses.  

The film was directed by Roger Allers and features an ensemble voice cast of Hollywood icons, including Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Rowan Atkinson, and Robert Guillaume.  For kids of my generation, the songs are almost as essential as the story in The Lion King, with original songs written by Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice and scored by Hans Zimmer.  

Set in a kingdom of lions in Africa, The Lion King tells the life story of a lion cub named Simba (which is Swahili for lion).  His father, Mufasa, is King of the Pride Lands, and Simba is set to take his throne, but Simba's paternal Uncle Scar kills Mufasa (and attempts to kill Simba.)  Scar then seizes the throne when Simba is tricked into believing he is responsible for his father's death and fleeing exile.  After learning to grow up carefree with fellow outcasts Timon and Pumbaa, Simba receives valuable perspective when his childhood friend Nala finds him.  He returns to challenge Scar, ending Scar's tyranny and taking his place as rightful King.  

Initially, the film was supposed to be non-musical, but after the success of The Little Mermaid (89), Beauty and the Beast (91), and Aladdin (92), the plan was changed.  Throughout production, the animators, writers, and the production team visited Kenya to observe wildlife and get inspiration for the settings and character design.  

Released on June 15th, 1994, the film did an initial worldwide gross of $763 million, finishing its theatrical run as the highest-grossing film of 1994 and the second-highest-grossing film of all time, behind Jurassic Park (93).  It also held the title of being the highest-grossing animated film until it was overtaken by Finding Nemo in 2003.  It remains the highest-grossing traditionally animated film of all time and the best-selling film on home video, having sold over 55 million copies worldwide.  


2004:  "Burn" by Usher

1999:  "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny's Child

1994:  "I Swear" by All-4-One


July 2004:

July 12 - I Love the 90's debuts on VH1.  

July 16 - Stargate Atlantis debuts on Sci-Fi

July 18 - Entourage debuts on HBO

July 21 - Rescue Me, starring Dennis Leary, debuts on FX.

July 24 - An infamous fight between Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriquez occurs during a Red Sox - Yankees game on FOX.  The same night, the Red Sox came back to win with a two-run walk-off homer run by Bill Mueller against Mariano Rivera.  

July 27 - During the Democratic National Convention, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama delivered the keynote address.  The speech launched him to national stardom and eventually the Oval Office.

July 1999:  

July 5 - The soap opera Passions debuts on NBC. When I met my wife, this show was her favorite soap, and it lasted until 2007.

July 18 - The Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria marries Helen Hunt.  They filed for divorce just over a year later.  

July 31 - CBS This Morning co-anchor Russ Mitchell becomes the lead anchor of CBC Evening News on weekends.  

July 1994:  

July 9 - The British puppet action series Thunderbirds is introduced to the United States when the series airs on Fox Kids Saturday Mornings with brand new music and voices.

July 11 - PBC repackes their existing children's program as a new block called PTV.

July 12 - The 1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game from Pittsburgh is broadcast on NBC.  It is the first baseball telecast on NBC since Game 5 of the 1989 National League Championship series.  It is also the first production of The Baseball Network, a new joint venture between MLB, NBC, and ABC.  Unfortunately, the venture was termed a failure and dissolved at the end of the 1995 season due to its much-criticized regional policy for game broadcasts and the player's strike that canceled the 1994 postseason.   Boy, a lot of baseball talk this month.

July 14: Westinghouse Broadcasting agrees to affiliate all of its stations with CBS, including long-tenured NBC affiliates WBZ in Boston and KYW in Philadelphia.  

July 20 - ABC sitcom "Dinosaurs" comes to an "explosive" end, having been on air since 1991.


  1. I promise I read the Independence Day portion, Jeff - please don’t hunt me down!

    That Sandlot clip actually brought back memories for me. July 4th is really different where I’m at than most of the country. We celebrate it, but I heard our New Years celebrations are more like how July 4th is celebrated on the mainland.

    Prior to the pandemic (when large public gatherings started getting either shut down or limited), my family used to go to a nearby military base with my parents and my sister’s family to spend the day at the annual party they had there. They had games, activities, food booths, and music performances (I remember one year they got Smashmouth to come out here) throughout the day, then a fireworks show at night. The Sandlot clip reminded me of that, even though it was very different (ours was in a big field, not in the middle of a neighborhood).

    The last time we went, my oldest was just about to start high school and my younger two were still in elementary. My wife just showed me a video the other day of my younger son riding (or falling off) a mechanical bull from that last time we went. Now my oldest is a grown adult and my younger two are in high school. Even if they still have that event, I’m not sure any of my kids would still want to go, and my parents are getting to the point where they might not be able to handle a whole day outside.

    I really miss that annual tradition, though. I know in 2022 we didn’t go because there were still limitations, and last year we were starting to wrap up our cross country trip on July 4th. We already have other plans this year so we didn’t look into it (why didn’t you post this article a month ago, Jeff!!!), but next year if they have it maybe we can try to reestablish that tradition.

    Anyway… see, I told you I read the article. And watched the Sandlot clip (you were right - it was worth the two minutes). And yes, I also read the This Month section, which contained many of the usual “holy crap, I’m old” moments throughout the article, so as always, thanks for that reminder…

  2. As always, thanks for reading! Glad you got something out of the Sandlot clip!! It always chokes me up a little.