ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1967), nineteen-year-old Nat Northington of the University of Kentucky became the first African-American to play football in the Southeastern Conference when the Wildcats took on Ole Miss. This was a far from happy occasion for Northington, however — a day earlier his teammate and best friend, Greg Page, died from a severe spinal injury suffered in a football practice five weeks earlier. Northington would soon leave the Kentucky campus in what Sports Illustrated called “a fog of distress and loneliness.”
ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1958), nineteen-year-old Eddie Cochran peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his single, “Summertime Blues.” Co-written by Cochran, the tune about a frustrated kid who gets no help because he’s “too young too vote” has been covered by Blue Cheer, The Who, and country singer Alan Jackson (as well as Olivia Newton-John and Alvin and the Chipmunks). An early innovator, Cochran overdubbed his guitar work in the studio to create a unique sound on the record, which Rolling Stone ranked 73rd on its 2004 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Two years later, Cochran died in an auto crash in England.
ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1944), sixteen-year-old Petr Ginz boarded a train for Auschwitz and was sent to his death in a gas chamber. Nearly six decades later the brilliant young man’s diaries were discovered and published as The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941-1942. Ginz’s journal includes diary entries, poems, short stories, and drawings that “reveal a budding Czech literary and artistic genius whose life was cut short by the Nazis,” wrote Ladka M. Bauerova of The New York Times. According to his sister, Ginz had written eight novels by the age of fourteen.
ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1930), eighteen-year-old Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays hit a home run that traveled between 460 and 500 feet and may have cleared the Yankee Stadium roof, although some dispute this. Gibson struck the home run during a Negro League championship series between the Grays and the New York Lincoln Giants. Gibson biographer John Holway called the blast “perhaps the longest home run ever hit in the House that Ruth Built.” Gibson’s Hall of Fame plaque says he hit “almost 800 home runs” during his career, and the Negro League Baseball Players Association website credits him with 75 home runs as a nineteen-year-old in 1931, although both figures are disputed.
ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1898), seventeen-year-old Fletcher Wagner launched the Shortridge Daily Echo, the first and longest-published high school daily newspaper in the U.S. The Shortridge, Indiana, school publication initially consisted of one page with advertisements on the back. It ceased publication in November of 1898, and then returned as a four-page paper in January of 1899. The Daily Echo remained a daily until the 1970s, when it went weekly. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once served as the newspaper’s editor.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE an old master to create exceptional art. Artemisia Gentileschi was seventeen in 1610 when she painted Susanna and the Elders (left) and eighteen or nineteen when she finished her most famous painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes (right).
ON THIS DAY IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1777), Sally Wister began keeping “a sort of journal” of her life during the Revolutionary War. The Quaker girl’s writings took the form of letters addressed to her “very dear friend” Deborah Norris, who could not be reached due to a cessation in mail delivery. Stretching over nine months, the journal paints a charming picture of young Wister’s isolated — she had moved 15 miles from her home in war-torn Philadelphia — but enjoyable existence. The New York Times in 1903 concluded that “in spite of her sober training, we fear Miss Sally was something of a flirt.” Sally Wister’s Journal was first published in 1902.