On This Day

What Happened in May 1981

Historical Events

Sports History

May 1 Tennis player Billie Jean King acknowledges a lesbian relationship with Marilyn Barnett - becoming first prominent sportswoman to come out

  • May 1 Harrison Williams (Sen-D-NJ) convicted on FBI Abscam charges
  • May 1 Radio Shack releases Model III TRSDOS 1.3
  • May 2 107th Kentucky Derby: Jorge Velásquez on Pleasant Colony wins in 2:02
  • May 2 Radio Shack re-releases Model III TRSDOS 1.3 with 2 fixes
  • May 3 "Can-Can" closes at Minskoff Theater NYC after 5 performances
  • May 3 "Moony, Shapiro Songbook" opens & closes at Morosco Theater NYC
  • May 4 Rockline premieres on KLOS FM in Los Angeles
  • May 4 Silvana Cruciata runs 15k female world record (49:44.0)
  • May 4 Yankee Ron Davis strikes out 8 consecutive Angels, ran record of 13 strikeouts of last 14 faced, also saved Gene Nelsons 1st win, 4-2
  • May 5 16th and final MLB pre-season Mayor's Trophy Game prior to inter-league play; NY Mets beat NY Yankees, 4-1 to hold 8-7-1 edge
  • May 5 After 66 days on hunger strike, 26 year old Provisional IRA member and British MP Bobby Sands dies in the Maze Prision. Nine more hunger strikers die in the next 3 months.
  • May 6 "Inacent Black" opens at Biltmore Theater NYC for 14 performances
  • May 6 US expels Libyan diplomats
  • May 8 Ron Davis pitches 10th consecutive strike out, 1 short of record
  • May 9 Kazimiroff Blvd in Bronx named for a Bronx historian

The Motherland Monument

May 9 The Motherland Monument at 62 m (203 ft) high is opened in Kyiv, Ukraine in ceremony attended by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev

Historic Event

May 10 François Mitterrand defeats Valery Giscard d'Estang for Presidency of France

  • May 10 Montreal Expo Charlie Lee no-hits SF Giants, 4-0

Music Premiere

May 11 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" (based on poetry by T. S. Eliot) directed by Trevor Nunn first premieres in the West End, London

  • May 12 "Lena Horne: Lady, Music" opens at Nederlander, NYC: runs for 333 performances
  • May 12 NY Islanders tie their own record with two shorthanded playoff goals in a period vs Minnesota North Stars
  • May 13 Dinamo Tbilisi wins 21st European Cup Winner's Cup against Carl Zeiss Jena of East Germany 2-1 in Düsseldorf

Assassination Attempt

May 13 Pope John Paul II is shot and critically wounded by Turkish gunman Mehemet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square, Vatican City

  • May 14 35th NBA Championship: Bost Celtics beat Houston Rockets, 4 games to 2
  • May 14 NASA launches space vehicle S-192

Sports History

May 15 "Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island" airs

Music Single

May 15 George Harrison releases single "All Those Years Ago" in UK: the song was a tribute to John Lennon, and featured Ringo Starr on drums, and Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals

  • May 15 Len Barker of Cleveland pitches perfect game vs Toronto
  • May 15 SCTV Network 90, sequel to Second City Television, debuts on NBC
  • May 15 Soyuz 40 carries 2 cosmonauts (1 Romanian) to Salyut 6

#1 in the Charts

May 16 "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes hits #1 for next 9 weeks

  • May 16 106th Preakness: Jorge Velásquez aboard Pleasant Colony wins in 1:54.6
  • May 16 Houston shortstop Craig Reynolds hits 3 triples as Astros beat Chicago Cubs, 6-1
  • May 17 "Inacent Black" closes at Biltmore Theater NYC after 14 performances
  • May 17 Islanders score 5 power play goals against Flyers in a playoff
  • May 19 Pirate Jim Bibby gives up a leadoff single to Brave Terry Harper, then retires next 27 batters
  • May 19 5 British Army soldiers are killed when their armoured vehicle is ripped apart by a Provisional Irish Republican Army roadside bomb near Bessbrook, County Armagh
  • May 21 François Mitterrand becomes president of France
  • May 21 Kim Seelbrede, (Ohio), crowned 30th Miss USA
  • May 21 Stanley Cup Final, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY: NY Islanders win back-to-back titles; beat Minnesota North Stars, 5-1 for 4 games to 1 series win

Music History

May 21 Reggae musician Bob Marley receives a Jamaican state funeral

  • May 22 Soyuz 40 returns to Earth
  • May 23 Peter Sutcliffe is convicted for the "Yorkshsire Ripper" murders of 13 women at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to life sentences for each
  • May 23 Barcelona fascists take 200 people hostage
  • May 23 NASA launches Intelsat V satellite, no. 501

Sports History

May 23 Puerto Rican boxer Wilfred Benítez (22) becomes the youngest 3-division world champion in history by knocking out WBC World Super Welterweight champion Maurice Hope in 12 rounds in Las Vegas

  • May 24 Indianapolis 500: Bobby Unser crosses finish line ahead of Mario Andretti; Unser disqualified for pit lane infraction, later reinstated for his 3rd race victory
  • May 24 Hostage situation ends at Central Bank in Barcelona, Spain

Baseball Record

May 25 Boston Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski (41) is 4th to play 3,000 MLB baseball games (Cobb, Musial & Aaron)

  • May 25 Daniel Goodwin scales outside of Chicago's Sears Tower in 7 hours
  • May 25 Rangers' Bill Stein sets AL record with 7 consecutive pinch hits
  • May 26 Marine jet crashes on flight deck of USS Nimitz, killing 14
  • May 26 The Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani and his coalition cabinet resign following a scandal over membership of the pseudo-masonic lodge P2 (Propaganda Due)
  • May 27 Lenny Randle tries to blow a slow roller foul but umpire says no
  • May 27 USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR
  • May 27 34th Cannes Film Festival: "Man of Iron" directed by Andrzej Wajda wins the Palme d'Or
  • May 27 25th European Cup: Liverpool beats Real Madrid 1-0 at Paris
  • May 29 US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
  • May 30 "Nightline" extends from 4 nights to 5 nights a week (Friday)
  • May 30 Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman is shot by group of rebel officers
  • May 30 LA Dodgers are quickest to get 1,000,000 attendance in a season in only 22 games

Famous Birthdays

  • May 1 Aliaksandr Hleb, Belarusian soccer winger (80 caps; VfB Stuttgart, Arsenal), born in Minsk, Belarus
  • May 1 Wes Welker, American NFL wide receiver (Pro Bowls 2008-12; First Team All Pro 2009, 12), born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • May 2 Matt Murray, English football goalkeeper, born in Solihull, England
  • May 2 Chris Kirkland, English football goalkeeper, born in Barwell, England
  • May 3 Farrah Franklin, American singer (former member of Destiny's Child), born in Los Angeles, California
  • May 4 Eric Djemba-Djemba, Cameroonian footballer, born in Douala, Cameroon
  • May 5 Danielle Christine Fishel, American actress (Topanga-Boy Meets World), born in Mesa, Arizona
  • May 5 Marcelle Bittar, Brazilian-Lebanese supermodel, born in Guarapuava, Paraná, Brazil
  • May 5 Chris Duncan, American baseball player, born in Tucson, Arizona

Craig David

May 5 Craig David, English singer (7 Days, Insomnia), born in Southampton, Hampshire

  • May 6 Matthew Leone, American rock bassist (Madina Lake), born in Chicago, Illinois
  • May 6 Nathan Leone, American rock singer (Madina Lake), born in Chicago, Illinois
  • May 6 Edyta Sliwinska, Polish professional dancer (Dancing With The Stars), born in Warsaw, Poland
  • May 6 Mark O'Connell, American drummer (Taking Back Sunday)

Xie Na

May 6 Xie Na, Chinese television host and actress (Happy Camp), born in Deyang, Sichuan

  • May 7 Maria Radner, German operatic contralto, specializing in Wagner, born in Düsseldorf, West Germany (d. 2015)
  • May 8 Andrea Barzagli, Italian footballer, (Juventus), born in Fiesole, Italy
  • May 8 Björn Dixgård, Swedish rock guitarist and singer (Mando Daio), born in Falun, Sweden
  • May 8 Yasuko Tajima, Japanese swimmer, born in Kanagawa, Japan
  • May 8 John Maine, American baseball player (NY Mets), born in Fredericksburg, Virgini
  • May 8 Stephen Amell, Canadian actor (Arrow), born in Toronto, Ontario
  • May 9 Bill Murphy, American baseball player
  • May 10 Humberto Suazo, Chilean footballer
  • May 10 Katori Hall, American playwright and actress (The Hot Wing King), born in Memphis, Tennessee
  • May 11 Austin O'Brien, American actor (Apollo 13, My Girl 2, Lawnmower Man), born in Eugene, Oregon
  • May 11 Lauren Jackson, Australian basketball player, born in Albury, Australia
  • May 11 Daniel Ortmeier, American baseball player, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • May 12 Kentaro Sato, Japanese television, video game, classical, and choral composer (Requiem Pacis - Requiem of Peace), and conductor, born in Hamamatsu, Japan
  • May 12 Lorena Bernal, Argentine Spanish model and actress (Miss Spain 1999), born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina

Rami Malek

May 12 Rami Malek, American actor (Bohemian Rhapsody), born in Los Angeles, California

  • May 12 Asmik Grigorian, Lithuanian operatic soprano, in born Vilnius, Lithuania
  • May 13 Sunny Leone, Canadian born Indian American model and actress, born in Sarnia, Ontario
  • May 13 Jimmy Yang, American wrestler, born in Los Angeles, California
  • May 13 Rebecka Liljeberg, Swedish actress (Show Me Love)
  • May 14 Sarbel [Michael Maronitis], British-Cypriot pop singer ("Se Pira Sovara"), born in London, England

Zara Phillips

May 15 Zara Phillips, English daughter of Princess Anne, born in London

  • May 15 Patrice Evra, French-Senegalese footballer
  • May 15 Justin Morneau, Canadian baseball player
  • May 15 Jamie-Lynn Sigler, American actress
  • May 16 Schalk Brits, South African rugby union hooker (15 Tests; Stormers, Saracens), born in Empangeni, South Africa
  • May 17 Beñat Albizuri, Spanish cyclist
  • May 17 Giannis Taralidis, Greek footballer
  • May 17 R. J. Helton, American Idol finalist
  • May 17 Shiri Maimon, Israeli singer
  • May 17 Leon Osman, English footballer
  • May 18 Mahamadou Diarra, Malian footballer, born in Bamako, Mali
  • May 18 Vincent Houdijk, Dutch jazz vibraphonist and bandleader (VinnieVibes), born in The Netherlands
  • May 19 Georges St. Pierre, Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
  • May 19 Luciano Figueroa, Argentine footballer
  • May 19 Klaas-Erik Zwering, Dutch swimmer
  • May 19 Nate Cole, American singer-songwriter (Plus One; Castledoor), born in Houston, Texas
  • May 19 Calico Cooper, American actress (Lila Black-Bloomers) and dancer, born in Los Angeles, California
  • May 20 Iker Casillas, Spanish footballer
  • May 20 Lindsay Taylor, American basketball player
  • May 20 Mark Winterbottom, Australian auto racer (Bathurst 1000 2013; International V8 Supercars C'ship 2015; Sandown 500 2006, 15), born in Sydney, Australia
  • May 20 Rachel Platten, American singer-songwriter (“Fight Song”), born in New York City
  • May 21 Beth Botsford, American swimmer (Olympic gold 1996), born in Baltimore, Maryland
  • May 21 Max Mutzke, German funk-pop-soul singer-songwriter and musician ("Can't Wait Until Tonight"), born in Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany
  • May 21 Josh Hamilton, Major League Baseball player, born in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • May 22 Bryan Danielson, American professional wrestler
  • May 22 Jürgen Melzer, Austrian tennis player
  • May 23 Gwenno Saunders, Welsh dancer and singer (The Pipettes)
  • May 26 Eda-Ines Etti, Estonian singer
  • May 26 Irini Merkouri, Greek singer
  • May 26 Isaac Sladen, American vocalist, pianist, and songwriter (The Fray - "How To Save A Life"; "You Found Me"), born in Boulder, Colorado
  • May 27 Johan Elmander, Swedish footballer
  • May 27 Miloy, Angolan footballer
  • May 27 Fivos Constantinou, Cypriot distance runner
  • May 27 Özgür Çevik, Turkish pop singer (Star Academy), and actor, born in Ankara, Turkey
  • May 28 Daniel Cabrera, Dominican baseball player
  • May 28 Adam Green, American anti-folk singer-songwriter, born in Mount Kisco, New York
  • May 29 Andrei Arshavin, Russian soccer midfielder (Russia 75 caps, Zenit SP, Arsenal), born in Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • May 30 Andrey Arshavin, Russian Footballer
  • May 30 Gianmaria Bruni, Italian racing driver
  • May 30 Devendra Banhart, Venezulan-American singer-songwriter (Cripple Crow), born in Houston, Texas
  • May 30 Blake Bashoff, American actor
  • May 30 Ahmad Elrich, Australian footballer
  • May 31 Jake Peavy, American baseball player (San Francisco Giants), born in Mobile, Alabama

Famous Weddings

John Grisham

May 8 Author John Grisham (26) weds Renee Jones

  • May 16 Pretenders' Martin Chambers weds Tracy Atkinson

Famous Deaths

  • May 1 Clarence A Bacote, historian/political scientist, dies at 75
  • May 5 Bobby Sands, Irish IRA activist dies in the 66th day of his hunger strike at 26
  • May 7 Mieczyslaw Kolinski, Polish-Canadian composer (Encounterpoint), educator, and ethno-musicologist, dies at 79
  • May 8 Margaret Lindsay, American actress (G Men, Lady Killer, Jezebel), dies at 70
  • May 8 Maurice Fernandes, West Indian cricket captain (WI in 1st Test win, 1930 v England), dies at 83
  • May 9 Nip Pellew, Australian cricketer (10 Tests 484 runs at 37), dies at 87
  • May 9 Nelson Algren, American novelist (Man with the Golden Arm), dies at 72

Bob Marley

May 11 Bob Marley, Jamaican reggae musician ("One Love"; "Three Little Birds"; "No Woman, No Cry"), dies of brain and lung cancer at 36

  • May 11 Hoyt J. Fuller, American editor (1st World magazine), dies at 57
  • May 11 Odd Hassel, Norwegian chemist (Nobel 1969 - the study of the three-dimensional geometric structure of molecules), dies at 83
  • May 12 Benjamin Sheares, President of Singapore (1971-81), dies at 73
  • May 13 Carl Weinrich, American organist and composer, dies at 76
  • May 16 Ernie Freeman, American musician (Raunchy), pianist and arranger, dies at 58
  • May 17 Jeannette Ridlon Piccard, 1st US woman free balloon pilot, dies
  • May 17 Hugo Friedhofer, American composer, dies at 80
  • May 18 Arthur O'Connell, American actor (Mr Peepers, Second Hundred Years), dies at 73
  • May 18 William Saroyan, American novelist & stagewriter (Time of your life), dies at 72
  • May 21 Yuki Shimoda, actor (Farewell to Manzanar), dies
  • May 21 Patsy O'Hara, Irish hunger striker (b. 1957)
  • May 21 Raymond Mccreesh, Irish hunger striker (b. 1957)
  • May 23 George Jessel, American stage and screen actor, singer, producer and host known as "The Toastmaster General", dies of a heart attack at 83
  • May 23 Rayner Heppenstall, English novelist (The Blaze of Noon), dies at 70
  • May 23 David Lewis, Canadian labour lawyer and politician (b. 1909)
  • May 24 Jack Warner [Waters], British actor (Dixon of Dock Green, Christmas Carol), dies from pneumonia at 85
  • May 25 Rosa Ponselle [Ponzillo], American soprano opera diva ("Casta Diva"; La Forza del Destino - "Leonora"; Metropolitan Opera, 1918-37), dies at 84
  • May 25 Roy Brown, American R&B singer, songwriter ("Good Rockin' Tonight"), dies of a heart attack at 55
  • May 25 Fredric Warburg, British publisher (Animal Farm) and author, dies at 82
  • May 28 Mary Lou Williams, American jazz pianist and composer (Zodiac Suite), dies at 71
  • May 28 Stefan Wyszyński, Polish Cardinal, dies at 79
  • May 30 Ziaur Rahmen, President of Bangladesh, is assassinated
  • May 30 Don Ashby, Canadian ice hockey player (b. 1955)
  • May 31 Giuseppe Pella, 31st Prime Minister of Italy, dies at 79