On the nation's 228th birthday, the only King George that rings a bell anymore is George ("Winning is second to breathing") Steinbrenner, who was born on the Fourth of July and among quintessentially American sports owners is second to none, including Al ("Just win, baby") Davis, who was also born on the Fourth of July.
Morganna, the Kissing Bandit, was born on the Fourth of July, and she got to first base in more ballparks than anyone but Barry Bonds—or maybe Clay Dalrymple, who walked six times for the Phillies on the Fourth of July in 1967. Few things are more American than a blonde baseball groupie with a 60-24-39 figure, and it's a pity that Stephen Foster (born on the Fourth of July, 1826) wrote Oh! Susanna and not, as he might have a century later, Oh! Morganna.
Consider this column—of small Fourth of July confections, pluckable at random—a kind of Whitman's Sampler that samples Whitman. "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem," Walt Whitman wrote in his preface to Leaves of Grass (first published on the Fourth of July in 1885), and not even John McEnroe would contest that point.
When McEnroe celebrated Independence Day, 1981, by winning his first singles title at Wimbledon—in front of British royalty—he was accosted on Centre Court by NBC broadcaster Bud Collins, who exclaimed, memorably, "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it McEnroe-ni!"
In fact, Yankee Doodle Dandy was written by a British physician, Richard Shuckburgh, and was used to ridicule colonial soldiers in 1775, which would give way, soon enough, to 1776: Jeff Blauser of the Braves hit the 1,776th Fourth of July home run in major league history on Independence Day, 1992. This is significant for one reason: We live in a nation so abundant in leisure that someone had time to calculate that statistic.
The former British Empire has nothing on Cesar Geronimo, whose Roman-Apache name calls to mind two empires in decline. And indeed, the ex-big leaguer was doubly victimized—first as Bob Gibson's 3,000th strikeout victim and later (on the Fourth of July, 1980) as Nolan Ryan's 3,000th. As of that Independence Day, only four pitchers in history had struck out 3,000, two of them reaching the milestone against the Reds outfielder, making him equal parts Caesar ("Et tu, Gibby?") and Geronimo (the word you scream when jumping out of an airplane).
George Washington made his historic crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, but it was the Fourth of July that really rendered the river a national treasure. On Independence Day, 1928, Lena Blackburne was hired to manage the White Sox, who would finish 46 games out of first place in his first (and only) full season as skipper. Spurred to seek other sources of income, Blackburne discovered—in a still-secret tributary of the Delaware River—a magical mud that removes the shine from brand-new baseballs without discoloring them. The filth has been applied for nearly half a century to every major league baseball and is sold, at $45 for 32 ounces, as Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.
The mud was on the baseball that Tim McCarver hit for a grand slam on the Fourth of July, 1976, the nation's Bicentennial. Adrenalized by his historic salami, McCarver passed teammate Garry Maddox on the base paths, negating the feat.
Between George Washington and Tim McCarver came George Washington Carver, a child of slaves and the Edison of Tuskegee, a school that opened on the Fourth of July, 1881, and advanced the cause of another American ballpark staple: the peanut.
And we're forever grateful, for Independence Day "ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other," wrote the second U.S. president, John Adams, who died on the Fourth of July in 1826, hours after the third president, Thomas Jefferson, expired, 50 years to the day after both adopted the Declaration of Independence.