Year
1946

Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak born

On this day in 1946, Patrick Leonard Sajdak, who will one day be known to millions of game-show fans as the Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak, is born in Chicago. Wheel of Fortune, which debuted in 1975, became the longest-running syndicated game show on American television, turning Sajak and his co-host, Vanna White, into pop-culture icons.

After attending Chicago’s Columbia College, Sajak joined the Army in 1968 and went to Vietnam, where he was a disc jockey for Armed Forces Radio in Saigon. After his discharge from the military, he worked in radio and TV and in 1977 became a weatherman for a Los Angeles TV station. In 1981, Wheel of Fortune’s creator, Merv Griffin (who also developed the long-running game show Jeopardy!, which debuted in 1964) tapped Sajak to take over hosting duties from Chuck Woolery for a network daytime version of Wheel. In 1983, Wheel of Fortune became a syndicated evening program. It has remained on the air continuously since that time, with Sajak and White as co-hosts.

During each episode of Wheel of Fortune, contestants compete to solve word puzzles. Players spin the big wheel to determine prize money and each player can buy vowels to help solve the puzzle. White stands next to the puzzleboard and reveals the individual letters when players have guessed them correctly. Born Vanna Marie Rosich on February 18, 1957, White was raised in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She attended the Atlanta School of Fashion Design and worked as a model before heading to Los Angeles to pursue acting. In 1982, the blonde beauty was selected to join Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. The first letter she ever turned on the puzzleboard was a “T.” In 1992, the Guinness Book of World Records named White “Television’s Most Frequent Clapper,” crediting her with an average of 720 claps per show.

Each year, more than 3,000 people audition to become contestants on Wheel of Fortune, while fewer than 500 make the final cut. During its 25 years of syndication, Wheel of Fortune has given over $180 million in cash and prizes to its contestants.

As for longevity, while Jeopardy! debuted in 1964, it has not aired continuously since then. Jeopardy! first aired from 1964 to 1975, then went off the air. It returned briefly, from 1978 to 1979, and was revived again in 1984, when Alex Trebek became host of a syndicated edition of the show. The longest-running game show in network or syndication is The Price is Right. The show originally aired on network TV from 1956 to 1965. A syndicated version of The Price is Right premiered in 1972, with Bob Barker as host. Barker remained with the show until his retirement at the age of 83 in 2007. Comedian Drew Carrey took over hosting duties beginning in October 2007.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Erie Canal opens

The Erie Canal opens, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, the driving force behind the project, led the opening ceremonies and rode the canal boat Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City.Work began on ...read more

Infant receives baboon heart

At Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California, Dr. Leonard L. Bailey performs the first baboon-to-human heart transplant, replacing a 14-day-old infant girl’s defective heart with the healthy, walnut-sized heart of a young baboon.The infant, known as “Baby ...read more

Battle of Leyte Gulf ends

After four days of furious fighting, the World War IIBattle of Leyte Gulf, the largest air-naval battle in history, ends with a decisive American victory over the Japanese.With the U.S. liberation of the Philippines underway, the desperate Japanese command decided to gamble their ...read more

“Outlaw” Sammy Swindell is born

On this day in 1955, Sammy Swindell, who becomes a star in the outlaw sport of sprint-car racing, is born in Germantown, Tennessee. In 1971, when he was just 15 years old, Swindell raced for the first time on a dirt track at the Riverside Speedway in Arkansas. Since he started ...read more

Shootout at the OK Corral

On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a ...read more

Fire breaks out on U.S. aircraft carrier

A fire breaks out on board the 42,000-ton U.S. aircraft carrier Oriskany in the Gulf of Tonkin. The accident occurred when a locker filled with night illumination magnesium flares burst into flame. The fire spread quickly through most of the ship, resulting in 35 officers and ...read more

Diem wins referendum in South Vietnam

Ngo Dinh Diem defeats Emperor Bao Dai in national referendum. In June 1954, Bao Dai had appointed Diem prime minister. In early 1955, Diem made a move to consolidate his power as the real ruler of Vietnam. Earlier in October, Bao Dai, then in France, tried to dismiss Diem, but ...read more

Big battle begins in Tay Ninh Province

The 1st Infantry Division troops are attacked in Binh Long Province (III Corps), 60 miles north of Saigon near the Cambodian border. Communist forces launched a mortar, rocket, and ground attack against Fire Support Base (FSB) Julie, eight miles west of An Loc. Soldiers from ...read more

Buckner lets ground ball roll through his legs

In the wee hours of the morning on October 26, 1986, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lets an easy ground ball dribble between his legs and roll down the right-field line. It was just a routine fielding error, but it was a disaster for the Boston Red Sox: It was the 10th inning ...read more

George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act

On this day in 2001, President George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law drawn up in response to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.The USA PATRIOT Act, as it is officially known, is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening ...read more

Hurricane Mitch slams into Central America

Hurricane Mitch hits Central America on this day in 1998. The storm, the most deadly hurricane to hit the Western Hemisphere in more than 200 years, went on to kill thousands of people.The storm formed on October 8 off the west coast of Africa. For 10 days it grew larger, slowly ...read more

An abused wife gets revenge

Betty Ferreri kills her husband, Jerry, in their Los Angeles, California, home with the help of house caretaker Alan Adron. When Jerry, a notorious womanizer, brought a young model to the couple’s home in the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood, Betty became upset and threatened ...read more

An Ozzy Osbourne fan commits suicide

Nineteen-year-old John McCollum is found shot to death on his bed in Indio, California. Although it was quickly determined that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, McCollum’s parents believed that singer Ozzy Osbourne was actually responsible because their son had been listening ...read more

“Bloody Bill” Anderson killed

On this day in 1864, the notorious Confederate guerrilla leader William “Bloody Bill” Anderson is killed in Missouri in a Unionambush. Born in the late 1830s, Anderson grew up in Missouri and moved to Kansas in the late 1850s. Arriving to settle on his father’s land claim east of ...read more