(Pictured: Apollo 16 commander John Young burns rubber on the moon in April 1972.)
April 18, 1972, is a Tuesday. The weather is pleasant across most of the country. In the Midwest, high temperatures reach into the 70s, well above normal. Apollo 16 is on its way to the moon after launch on Sunday afternoon. John Young and Charlie Duke are expected to become the ninth and 10th humans to walk on the moon after touchdown on Thursday night. The Command Module pilot is Ken Mattingly, who famously missed the Apollo 13 disaster two years ago after being grounded for exposure to the measles. On Earth, President Nixon orders a halt in the massive bombing campaign currently underway against Hanoi and Haiphong, which has been intended to force the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The two-week assault is the most extensive in three years; in its wake, college campuses have erupted again. Today students at the University of Maryland are teargassed; protesters at Stanford break windows. About 100 campuses plan student strikes for Friday. Other headlines include the massive recall of every 1972 Ford Torino and Mercury Montego, an estimated 436,000 vehicles, to repair faulty rear axles.
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Western Conference Finals with a 115-90 win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads all scorers with 28; Wilt Chamberlain grabs 26 rebounds for the Lakers. The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics will resume the Eastern finals tomorrow night in Boston. The Knicks lead that series 2-0. (The Lakers will win the series in Milwaukee on Saturday and beat the Knicks in the Finals.) Major League Baseball’s season was delayed by a 13-day players’ strike, which was settled last Thursday. Games began on Saturday. All 24 teams are in action today. The Montreal Expos are the National League’s only unbeaten team at 3-and-0 after a 7-2 win over the New York Mets. The American League’s lone unbeaten is the Detroit Tigers, now 2-and-0 after a 5-3 win at Baltimore. Also in the AL, the Chicago White Sox get their first win, 14-0 over the Texas Rangers, the former Washington Senators now playing in Arlington, Texas. It’s the first nighttime home opener in White Sox history, and it’s over early: in the bottom of the first, the first five Sox batters get to Rangers starter Bill Gogolewski for three hits, a walk, and a home run by Carlos May.
On TV tonight, NBC airs an hour of highlights from Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings into the bombing of Haiphong, sandwiched by Double Jeopardy, a detective story starring Lauren Bacall and Zsa Zsa Gabor (originally aired as an episode of Bob Hope Chrysler Theater in 1965) and an episode of James Garner as Nichols. CBS airs a news special called What’s New at School? that examines the differences between a traditional New York City elementary classroom and a more informal “open classroom” in North Dakota. It’s followed by episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Cannon. ABC airs an episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and the TV movie The Birdmen before its live broadcast of the Lakers/Bucks game.
Accompanied by an entourage of over 100 people, Elvis Presley plays San Antonio. Procol Harum plays Milwaukee. Creedence Clearwater Revival plays Jacksonville, Florida, with opening acts Tony Joe White and Tower of Power. Detroit, led by Mitch Ryder, plays the first of two shows scheduled for tonight in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; the second is cancelled after a fire breaks out in the theater. A local radio station convinces Ryder to stay in town and play an outdoor show tomorrow night.
Michael Jackson’s “Rockin’ Robin” is the #1 song in Cash Box this week, knocking “A Horse With No Name” by America to #3 after three weeks at the top. “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, jumps to #2. (It’s currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.) Three songs are new in the Top 10: “Betcha By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done” by Sonny and Cher, and “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin. The hottest record on the Cash Box Top 40 is “Look What You Done for Me” by Al Green, up from #38 to #18.
In Wisconsin, nature is waking up after the long winter. It’s possible that on this warm day, windows of one particular farmhouse are open and laundry is hung on the line for the first time this year. It is difficult for one particular sixth-grader to sit in a classroom on such a lovely day, but he has already learned a lesson about obligations that will still resonate 50 years from now: cowboys are not the only ones whose work is never done.