Toasting ‘The Day After’

Let me introduce myself.

I am July 5th and I get no respect. That’s because I follow July 4th, the grandest, most noisy, most patriotic and, at times, most obnoxious (as in hot dog eating contests) holiday of the summer.

It’s sort of like the hangover from New Year’s Eve on January 1st but the 1st has the Rose Parade and bowl games and black-eyed peas.

I am July 5th and I’m feeling like forgotten lagniappe.

After July 4th’s boast of being one of the most important days in history with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, you know what happened on July 5, 1776?

General George Washington gave Polish engineer and recent American immigrant Thaddeus Kosciuszko his first assignment as a volunteer with the Continental Army: to build Fort Billingsport in Paulsboro, N.J.

Is THAT something to spice up a resume for This Day in History?

I am July 5th and I feel like Andrew Johnson, the guy who followed Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States.

I am July 5th, and some call me Ray, and no, it’s not for Ray Charles, who sang the most soul-stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful.” They call me Ray, for Ray Perkins, who succeeded legendary football coach Bear Bryant as the head football coach at the University of Alabama.

Occasionally, a big bang can follow another big bang like Fireworks over Buhlow (July 3rd) and Rocking the Red (July 4th), but I am July 5th and get no respect. I am Bobby Murcer following back-to-back Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the starting centerfielder for the Yankees.

I am July 5th and an oh-by-the-way sort of day. I am the group of Spanish settlers and native Tumucuans who celebrated a meal of thanksgiving together in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. That was 55 years before the pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock and celebrated what most regard as the first Thanksgiving in America. Granted, Florida was under Spanish rule at the time, but just saying.

Then again, I am July 5th and there are some anniversaries I can celebrate: in the first all-American final at Wimbledon in 1927, Helen Wills Moody beat Helen Jacobs, 6-1, 6-2; and in 1934, Lou Gehrig hit his then-record 17th grand slam in Yankees’ 8-3 win over Washington, passing Babe Ruth’s total.

Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians became the first Black player in the American League on July 5, 1947, in a game against the Chicago White Sox.

Then again, I am July 5th and I am Larry Doby becoming the SECOND Black man to play in Major League Baseball behind Jackie Robinson.

My guess is most of us can empathize more with the second fiddle than the orchestra conductor.    

Bob Tompkins enjoyed a 43-year newspaper career as an award-winning writer and editor, serving the last 39 years at the Town Talk in Alexandria through most of 2015. He is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a past winner of the LSWA’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism. An Alexandria resident, Tompkins is a contributing columnist sharing his talents with Rapides Parish Journal readers.