Your whole life you've been taught the importance of coming in first. Whether you're the first to make a great discovery, the first to hit the finish line or the first to produce vegetable-based pornography, it's all a big deal. After all, how would you like it if Rumpshaka43 got the credit for commenting on this article first, when it was really Lord_Dildonator all along? Exactly.
So let's take a moment to point out that ...
Very few individual achievements have been as celebrated as Charles Lindbergh's crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. In fact, when he landed in Paris, the French went le apeshit. Lindbergh couldn't even get out of the cockpit before an estimated crowd of over 100,000 Frenchmen stormed his landing site, grabbed him and carried him above their heads like a human umbrella ... for half a goddamn hour.
"The first 10 minutes were celebration. The last 20 were molestation."
It's easy now to forget how exciting the accomplishment really was. Maybe if we could all take a cross-Atlantic trip in the steamy pits of an overcrowded, rat and TB-infested ship, we'd get a better understanding of Lindy fever.
Except That ...
Two British pilots had already crossed the Atlantic. And they did it eight years earlier.
Sometimes upside down!
In 1919, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown laughed in the face of gravity by flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in an exhausting 16 hours. When they got back to their native England, they were given the royal treatment -- literally. King George V knighted the two men, and they were awarded a nice cash prize by none other than Winston Churchill. Hey, it's no half hour of crowd surfing, but we can't all land in France.
Some of us apparently can't even land in Ireland.
So why do we not know about either of these guys? Well, Alcock and Brown were HUGE celebrities ... in Britain. But in America, they contracted what has later become known as "soccer syndrome," meaning the United States just didn't give a shit. It wasn't until American Charles Lindbergh made the New York to Paris flight (in order to win 25,000 clams) that anyone on this side of the pond cared. And it didn't hurt that Lucky Lindy looked like he was dripping with Handsome Sauce:
This is why Americans are action heroes and British men are disfigured villains.
Just a photo op with Lindy sent the press into orgasmic ecstasy. In fact, when Lindbergh was awarded the Medal of Honor in the U.S., the inscription read that he "demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible," completely ignoring the achievements of those before him. The other guys? Mostly forgotten now, even in Europe.
Even after being encased in cement to be admired by future generations.
When you think of civil rights pioneers, a lot of people come to mind. Most of us immediately think of Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps you hate mass transit and everything it stands for, so Rosa Parks is your hero. If your thing is people coming to accept each other by swinging bats at baseballs, then Jackie Robinson is your man.
He's sliding to score a run, but also for freedom.
As the first African-American to play professional baseball, Jackie Robinson took a lot of racist shit. But that's what breaking barriers is all about, right?
Except That ...
Moses Fleetwood Walker was an African-American and played major league baseball long before Jackie Robinson. Walker was a catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings, which was a major league team, and he did it in 1884, over 30 years before Robinson was even born. That's just freaking 19 years after slavery was legal!
We're not certain, but Eddie Murphy may have stolen his mustache.
Walker probably wasn't even the first black guy to appear in a major league game. That distinction goes to William Edward White, a Brown student whose story fans of world play must have loved. But Walker was the first to try and make a career of it, and his story has all the makings of a legend. When Walker first picked up baseball, the sport was so young that mitts hadn't even been invented, and since he was a catcher, he was forced to catch his pitchers' fastballs with his bare hands. This was especially precarious position to be squatting in since Walker had to endure much of the same bullshit that Robinson put up with nearly half a century later, such as racist epithets, letters threatening to lynch him if he played and opposing players refusing to share the field with him because of his skin color.
Like Robinson, some of the dickishness came from Walker's own team. Tony Mullane, one of the star pitchers of the day, told everyone that Walker was the best catcher he'd ever seen, but that whenever he pitched to him, he wouldn't even look at Walker's signals and he'd just throw whatever he damn well pleased. This type of idiocy led to a hell of a lot of balls ending up beyond Walker's reach or smacking into his ribs, since the catcher had no idea where they were going.
Here's Mullane either pitching or falling forward very slowly.
The good news for Walker was that for a brief time in the 1884 season, he was joined by his brother, Welday Walker, as a member of the Blue Stockings. That's right, the same year that saw baseball's first black pro baseball player also saw the second black pro baseball player rise through the ranks.
Wow, this is an awkward photo.
Unfortunately, Moses Walker's professional career was brief. The Blue Stockings folded the year after Walker made his major league debut. At which point the entire world apparently forgot about him.
If you don't know the name Johannes Gutenberg, let's put it this way: He's considered by many to be the most influential person of the last thousand years.
It's all because around 1439, Gutenberg whipped up the world's first printing press, putting books into the hands of the common man for the first time ever. That means we all have him to thank for the entire concept of mass distribution of information. So yeah, he's remembered as having utterly changed the world with the invention of a single machine.
Yep, the Gilette Twin-Beard Razor.
Except That ...
Gutenberg wasn't the first guy to do it. Not even a little bit. Movable metal type -- the method his printing press used -- was 200-year-old news by 1439. That's because the Goryeo dynasty of Korea already covered that ground back in the 13th century.
Starcraft manuals, as far as the eye can see.
It was during the 1200s that the Mongols caught world domination fever, and Korea was one of the many nations on their road to recovery. As the Mongols invaded Korea, they destroyed countless religious texts. So the Koreans did what any self-respecting country would do -- they invented a revolutionary way to use metal characters dripping with ink to preserve their sacred heritage as quickly as possible.
And check this out, we've still got one of the books they printed:
We translated the symbol for "First!!!" and didn't read any further.
That bad boy was printed in 1377, over 60 years before Gutenberg got his press up and running. And by the way, Asia had already been printing with wood blocks for hundreds of years by this point, while the West was still hand-writing with quill feathers on pig carcasses. In other words, the transition to metal movable type on paper got a whopping "Meh" from the East and a "HOLY SHIT, IT'S A MIRACLE!" from the West.