On This Day

Historical Events in 1981

Events 1 - 200 of 762

  • Jan 1 Greece is 10th country to join European Economic Community
  • Jan 1 International Year for the Disabled begins
  • Jan 1 Palau (Trust Territory of Pacific Is) becomes self-governing
  • Jan 1 Roger Smith becomes CEO of General Motors
  • Jan 1 67th Rose Bowl: #5 Michigan beats #16 Washington, 23-6
  • Jan 1 47th Sugar Bowl: #1 Georgia beats #7 Notre Dame, 17-10
  • Jan 1 47th Orange Bowl: #4 Oklahoma beats #2 Florida State, 18-17

Historic Publication

Jan 1 Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa publishes his historical novel "The War of the End of the World"

  • Jan 3 NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers retire jersey # 34, Austin Carr
  • Jan 3 Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell scores a masterly 204 v India in the 1st Test in Sydney; home side wins by an innings and 4 runs

Australian Open Women's Tennis

Jan 3 Australian Open Women's Tennis: Czech teenager Hana Mandlíková wins her 1st of 4 career Grand Slam singles titles; beats home favourite Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-5

Sports History

Jan 3 American golfer Johnny Miller wins the sport's first $1 million tournament when he beats Seve Ballesteros of Spain in a playoff in the inaugural Million Dollar World Challenge at Sun City, South Africa

  • Jan 4 "Frankenstein" opens & closes on Broadway
  • Jan 4 Musical "Peter Pan", starring Sandy Duncan, closes at Lunt-Fontanne Theater NYC after 578 performances
  • Jan 4 British police arrest Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper"
  • Jan 4 "Red Right 88", trailing 14–12 Clevelands Browns attempt an end zone pass play (Red Right 88) and a game-winning field goal in the final minute, but pass intercepted by Raiders safety Mike Davis and Oakland wins
  • Jan 4 Australian Open Men's Tennis: American Brian Teacher wins his first and only Grand Slam event; beats home favourite Kim Warwick 7-5, 7-6, 6-3
  • Jan 5 "Nightline" with Ted Koppel extended from 20 mins to 30 mins
  • Jan 5 Peter Sutcliffe, a truck driver confesses that he is the "Yorkshire Ripper" and murdered 13 women
  • Jan 6 50th hat trick in Islander history-John Tonelli scored 5 goals

Music History

Jan 8 Joseph Papp's revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Pirates of Penzance", starring Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, and Kevin Kline, opens at the Uris Theater, NYC; runs for 772 performances and wins a Tony Award

  • Jan 8 India all out 63 in one-day international v Australia
  • Jan 8 MLB Cincinnati Reds become last team to sign a free agent (Larry Biitner)

Historic Event

Jan 8 Isabel Allende begins a letter to her dying grandfather that will become her first novel "The House of the Spirits"

  • Jan 9 Francisco Balsamao elected President of Portugal
  • Jan 10 El Salvador guerrilla group FMLN opens "general offensive"
  • Jan 10 John Severin sets 100-mi unicycle speed record, 9 h 21 m
  • Jan 11 "Tintypes" closes at John Golden Theater NYC after 93 performances
  • Jan 11 Palau adopts constitution
  • Jan 11 British team led by Ranulph Fiennes completes longest & fastest crossing of Antarctica, reaching Scott base after 75 days (2,500 miles)
  • Jan 11 AFC Championship, Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego: Oakland Raiders beat San Diego Chargers, 34-27
  • Jan 11 NFC Championship, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Eagles beat Dallas Cowboys, 20-7

Television Premiere

Jan 12 Soap opera "Dynasty" produced by Aaron Spelling and starring John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins premieres on ABC-TV

  • Jan 12 -35°F (-37°C), Chester, Massachusetts (state record)
  • Jan 13 Barbara Sonntag, Colo, crochets record 147 stitches/min for 1/2 hour
  • Jan 13 Bollingen Prize for poetry awarded to May Swenson and Howard Nemerov

NHL Record

Jan 13 Islander's Mike Bossy's 15th career hat trick-4 goals

  • Jan 14 US Federal Communications Commission frees stations to air as many commercials an hour as they wish
  • Jan 15 "Hill Street Blues" premieres on NBC-TV
  • Jan 15 Pitcher Bob Gibson is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility; after a stellar 17 year career, polls 337 votes from Baseball Writers Association of America

Historic Event

Jan 15 Pope John Paul II receives Lech Wałęsa and Solidarity delegation at the Vatican

Sports History

Jan 16 Boxer Leon Spinks is mugged, his assailants even take his gold teeth

Music Single

Jan 16 John Lennon's single "Woman" is posthumously released in the UK

  • Jan 16 Protestant gunmen shoot & wound Bernadette Devlin McAliskey & husband

Historic Event

Jan 17 President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos ends martial law

  • Jan 18 Iran accepts US offer of $7.9 billion in frozen assets
  • Jan 18 Punk singer Wendy O. Williams arrested in Milwaukee for on-stage obscenity (later cleared)
  • Jan 18 Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield become the first two people to BASE jump from objects in all four categories (buildings, cliffs, bridges, antennae) after parachuting off a Houston skyscraper

Sports History

Jan 18 Swedish tennis star Björn Borg claims his second straight ATP Masters Grand Prix title with a 6–4, 6–2, 6–2 win over Ivan Lendl at Madison Square Garden, NYC

Sports History

Jan 19 Muhammad Ali talks a despondent 21 year old out of committing suicide

  • Jan 19 US & Iran sign agreement to release 52 American hostages
  • Jan 20 Adm Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret), ends term as 12th director of CIA
  • Jan 20 Frank C. Carlucci, ends his term as deputy director of CIA
  • Jan 20 Islander Glenn Resch's 25th & last shut-out opponent-Flames 5-0

President Inaugurated

Jan 20 Ronald Reagan inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States of America

Iran Hostage Crisis

Jan 20 The US diplomats and citizens held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran are released and begin their journey home after 444 days

  • Jan 21 "Shakespeare's Cabaret" opens at Bijou Theater New York City for 54 performances
  • Jan 21 Bernhard Goetz is assaulted for 1st time on a New York City subway train
  • Jan 21 Norman Stronge and his son James (both former Ulster Unionist Members of Parliament) are assassinated by the Irish Republican Army at their home Tynan Abbey, which is then burnt down
  • Jan 22 40th Islander shut-out opponent-3-0 vs Red Wings-Billy Smith 15th
  • Jan 22 O A "Bum" Phillips becomes head coach of New Orleans Saints
  • Jan 23 1st Richard Nixon museum opens in San Clemente California
  • Jan 23 Jochem Bird elected mayor of West Berlin
  • Jan 23 Mike Bossy becomes 1st in NHL to score 50 goals in 50 games
  • Jan 23 Red Sox trade Fred Lynn to Angels for Frank Tanana and Joe Rudi
  • Jan 24 Islanders scored 5 power play goals against Nordiques

Sports History

Jan 24 Kim Hughes scores 213 v India at Adelaide

  • Jan 25 52 Americans held hostage by Iran for 444 days arrived back in US

Historic Event

Jan 25 Mao's widow Jiang Qing sentenced to death

  • Jan 25 Super Bowl XV, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA: Oakland Raiders beat Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10; MVP: Jim Plunkett, Oakland, QB
  • Jan 26 Sandeep Patil scores memorable 174 v Australia at Adelaide Oval
  • Jan 28 "5 O'Clock Girl" opens at Helen Hayes Theater NYC for 12 performances

Historic Event

Jan 28 William J. Casey becomes 13th director of CIA (until 1987)

  • Jan 28 Olympic Glory tanker at Galveston Bay, Texas, spills 1 million gallons of oil in a ship collision
  • Jan 29 AL approves sale of White Sox to Jerry Reinsdorf & Eddie Einhorn for $20 million, & 80% of Mariners to George Argyros for $104 million
  • Jan 31 "The Tide Is High" by Blondie hits #1
  • Jan 31 Gaetan Boucher skates world record 1000m (1:13.39)

Music Premiere

Feb 1 Duke Ellington's musical "Sophisticated Ladies," premieres in NYC

  • Feb 1 Dutch Antilles census is 231,932
  • Feb 1 French government accord sends 60 Mirage fighter jets to Iraq
  • Feb 1 NFL Pro Bowl, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI: NFC beats AFC, 21-7; MVP: Eddie Murray, Detroit Lions, PK
  • Feb 1 Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell sensationally instructs younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm to Brian McKechnie with NZ needing 6 from last ball to tie 3rd World Series ODI in Melbourne; Australia wins by 6

NBA All-Star Game

Feb 1 31st NBA All-Star Game, Coliseum at Richfield, OH: East beats West, 123-120; MVP: Nate Archibald, Boston Celtics, PG

  • Feb 3 Australia beats NZ 3-1 to win cricket's World Series Cup
  • Feb 3 Gro Harlem Brundtland is elected as the first female Prime Minister of Norway
  • Feb 5 "Piaf" opens at Plymouth Theater NYC for 165 performances
  • Feb 5 Largest Jell-O made (9,246 gallons of watermelon-flavor) in Brisbane
  • Feb 5 Military jury in North Carolina convicts Robert Garwood of collaborating with the enemy during the Vietnam War

Hall of Fame

Feb 5 Joni Mitchell inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame

  • Feb 6 "Brady Brides" debuts on NBC TV
  • Feb 6 Suleiman Nyambui runs world record 5k indoor (13:20.4)

Film Release

Feb 6 Crime film "Fort Apache: The Bronx" starring Paul Newman released amid protests in the US

  • Feb 8 "5 O'Clock Girl" closes at Helen Hayes Theater NYC after 12 performances
  • Feb 8 "Brigadoon" closes at Majestic Theater NYC after 133 performances
  • Feb 8 US female Figure Skating championship won by Elaine Zayak

Sports History

Feb 8 US male Figure Skating championship won by Scott Hamilton

  • Feb 10 33rd NHL All-Star Game, The Forum, Inglewood: Campbell Conference beats Wales Conference, 4-1; MVP: Mike Liut, St. Louis Blues, G
  • Feb 10 8 killed & 198 injured by fire at Las Vegas Hilton
  • Feb 10 Dennis Lillee becomes Australian Cricket's top wicket-taker with 249
  • Feb 11 Australia all out 83 v India at MCG chasing 143 to win
  • Feb 11 Polish premier Jozef Pinkowski replaced by Wojciech Jaruzelski
  • Feb 12 Admiral Bobby R Inman, USN, becomes deputy director of CIA
  • Feb 12 Arbitrator Goetz declares Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk a free agent
  • Feb 12 Cape Verde amends its constitution
  • Feb 12 Pete Squires sets record for 1575 steps of Empire State Building, 10m
  • Feb 13 Longest sentence published by "The New York Times" - 1286 words
  • Feb 13 A series of sewer explosions destroys more than two miles of streets in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Feb 13 31st Berlin International Film Festival: "Hurry, Hurry!" wins the Golden Bear
  • Feb 14 Stardust Disaster: A fire in a Dublin nightclub kills 48 people
  • Feb 15 Rocket-powered ice sled attains 399 kph, Lake George, New York

Daytona 500

Feb 15 23rd Daytona 500: Richard Petty wins record 7th title at Daytona, beating Bobby Allison to the line by 3.5 seconds

  • Feb 17 Chrysler Corporation reports largest corporate losses in US history

Sports History

Feb 18 20-year-old Edmonton center Wayne Gretzky becomes first player in NHL history to score 5 career hat-tricks before age 21; scores 5 goals and 2 assists in 9-2 Oilers' home win against St. Louis

Music History

Feb 19 George Harrison is ordered to pay ABKCO Music $587,000 for "subconscious plagiarism" of his song "My Sweet Lord" with Ronnie Mack's song "He's So Fine"

  • Feb 20 Flight readiness firing of Columbia's main engines; 20 seconds
  • Feb 20 James Sanford equals 50m indoor world record (5.61 sec)
  • Feb 20 Quebec's Czech rookie brothers Peter and Anton Stastny each score first career NHL hat-tricks in Nordiques' 9-3 win at Vancouver; Peter adds 3 assists and Anton 2

Film & TV History

Feb 21 Charles Rocket clearly says "f*ck" on "Saturday Night Live"

  • Feb 21 Japan launches Hinotori satellite to study solar flares (580/640 k)
  • Feb 21 NASA launches Comstar D-4
  • Feb 23 People magazine features drug ordeal of Mackenzie & Papa John Phillips

Coup d'état

Feb 23 "Tejerazo" Spanish coup led by Civil Guard officer Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina fails after televised speech by King Juan Carlos I

Engagement of Interest

Feb 24 Britain's Prince Charles announces engagement to Lady Diana Spencer

  • Feb 24 Jean Harris is convicted of murdering Scarsdale diet doctor Tarnower
  • Feb 24 An earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale hits Athens, killing 16 people and destroying buildings in several towns west of the city.

Grammy Awards

Feb 25 23rd Grammy Awards: Sailing, Christopher Cross, Billy Joel wins

  • Feb 25 Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo elected premier of Spain
  • Feb 25 NHL most penalized game; Bruins vs Northstars, 84 penalties (392 mins)
  • Feb 25 NY Islanders give up their most goals (11) vs Calgary Flames
  • Feb 25 Rita Jenrette (wife of Abscam congressman) appears on Donahue
  • Feb 25 US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
  • Feb 25 Exec Board of Baseball Players' Association votes unanimously to strike on May 29 if the issue of free-agent compensation remains unresolved
  • Feb 26 3 Anglican missionaries detained in Iran since Aug 1980 are released
  • Feb 26 84 penalties (406 mins) assessed for a brawl between NHL Minn & Bost
  • Feb 26 French Train Grande Vitesse averages 380 kph on trial run
  • Feb 27 Greatest passenger load on a commercial airliner-610 on Boeing 747
  • Feb 27 Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder record the single "Ebony & Ivory"
  • Feb 28 Calvin Murphy (Hou), sets NBA record with 78 consecutive free throws
  • Feb 28 People's Republic of China throws out the Netherlands ambassador due to Dutch sales of submarines to Taiwan
  • Mar 1 Duke Ellington's musical "Sophisticated Ladies" opens at Lunt-Fontanne, NYC; runs for 767 performances
  • Mar 1 Houston Rockets guard Calvin Murphy misses a free throw in a 102-86 loss in San Antonio, ending his NBA record consecutive free throw streak at 78
  • Mar 1 Republican prisoners in the Maze began a second hunger strike; among them is Bobby Sands
  • Mar 2 Aircraft hijacked by 3 Pakistani terrorists
  • Mar 2 Howard Stern begins broadcasting on WWDC in Washington, D.C.

Scientific Discovery

Mar 2 Discovery of minor planet 5020 Asimov, named after sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov

  • Mar 3 Isle's Mike Bossy 9th & final hat trick of season-4 goals
  • Mar 3 NY Islanders & Edmonton Oilers play to an 8-8 tie
  • Mar 5 Michael Stewart's musical "Bring Back Birdie" opens at Martin Beck Theater, NYC for 4 performances

Sports History

Mar 5 Ice Dance Championship at Hartford won by Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean (GRB)

  • Mar 5 Ice Pairs Champ at Hartford won by Irina Vorobieva & I Lisovski (URS)
  • Mar 5 Men's Figure Skating Champions in Hartford won by Scott Hamilton (USA)
  • Mar 5 US government grants Atlanta $1 million to search for black boy murderer
  • Mar 6 France performs nuclear test at Mururoa atoll
  • Mar 6 Soyuz 39 returns to Earth

Film & TV History

Mar 6 Walter Cronkite signs off as anchorman of "CBS Evening News"

  • Mar 6 Worlds Ladies' Figure Skating Champ in Hartford won by Denise Biellmann
  • Mar 7 Michael Stewart's musical "Bring Back Birdie" closes at Martin Beck Theater, NYC, after 4 performances
  • Mar 7 1st homicide at Disneyland, 18 year old is stabbed to death
  • Mar 7 28th ACC Men's Basketball Tournament: North Carolina beats Maryland, 61-60
  • Mar 7 22nd SEC Men's Basketball Tournament: Ole Miss beats Georgia, 66-62
  • Mar 8 "Shakespeare's Cabaret" closes at Bijou Theater NYC after 54 performances
  • Mar 8 Dennis Lillee ct by Qld 12th man Dennis Lillie in Shield game
  • Mar 9 Dan Rather becomes primary anchorman of CBS-TV News

Film and TV Awards

Mar 9 7th People's Choice Awards: Clint Eastwood, Jane Fonda & Goldie Hawn win (Motion Picture) and Alan Alda & Carol Burnett win (TV)

  • Mar 10 "Bette Davis Eyes" single released by Kim Carnes (Billboard Song of the Year 1981)

Historic Event

Mar 11 Chile constitution takes effect, Augusto Pinochet's second term begins

  • Mar 11 Johnny Mize and Rube Foster are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Mar 12 Soyuz T-4 carries 2 cosmonauts to Salyut 6 space station

Music Premiere

Mar 12 Stephen Sondheim's musical revue "Marry Me a Little," premieres in NYC

  • Mar 12 Walter R T Witschey installs world's largest sundial in Richmond, Virginia
  • Mar 14 NCAA St Joseph's upsets top seed DePaul 49-48
  • Mar 15 "Broadway Follies" opens/closes at Nederlander Theater NYC
  • Mar 15 Suriname failed coup under sgt-mjr Wilfred Hawker
  • Mar 17 FC Lisse, Dutch soccer team forms
  • Mar 18 Buffalo Sabres sets NHL record of 9 goals in 1 period (vs Toronto)
  • Mar 19 2 workers killed in space shuttle Columbia accident
  • Mar 19 Buffalo Sabres beat Toronto Maple Leafs 14-4
  • Mar 20 Argentine ex-president Isabel Peron sentenced to 8 years
  • Mar 20 Jean Harris sentenced 15-to-life for slaying of Scarsdale Diet Dr
  • Mar 21 France beats England 16-12 at Twickenham, London for it's 7th outright Five Nations Rugby Championship and 3rd Grand Slam title
  • Mar 21 9-time World Grand Prix motor cycle champion Mike Hailwood along with his 9-year old daughter Michelle are killed when his Rover SD1 collides with a truck near their home in Tanworth-in-Arden in England
  • Mar 22 US 1st class postage raised to 18 cents from 15 cents
  • Mar 22 Soyuz 39 carries 2 cosmonauts (1 Mongolian) to Salyut 6
  • Mar 22 Toshihiko Seko runs world record 25k (1:13:55.8)/30k (1:29:18.8)
  • Mar 23 US Supreme Court upholds law making statutory rape a crime only for men
  • Mar 23 US Supreme Court rules states could require, with some exceptions, parental notification when teen-age girls sought abortions

PGA Players Championship

Mar 23 PGA Tournament Players Championship, Sawgrass CC: Raymond Floyd beats Barry Jaeckel and Curtis Strange on the first hole of a sudden death playoff in a rain affected Monday finish

  • Mar 24 "Nightline with Ted Koppel" premieres on ABC
  • Mar 24 Bombay beat Delhi by innings & 46 to win Ranji Cricket Trophy
  • Mar 24 Colombia drops diplomatic relations with Cuba
  • Mar 26 Police & Albanian demonstrators battle in Kosovo, Yugoslavia
  • Mar 26 Soviet space mission Soyuz T-4 lands
  • Mar 27 John Lennon single "Watching the Wheels" released posthumously in UK

Album Release

Mar 27 "Blizzard of Ozz", the debut solo album by English rock musician Ozzy Osbourne, is released in the United States

  • Mar 28 East German Christa Rothenburger skates ladies' world record 500 m (40.18 sec); she later breaks her own record twice
  • Mar 28 France performs nuclear test