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History Book - Mozart hits a high note


WORLD Radio - History Book - Mozart hits a high note

Plus: a record batting average, and a milestone for Disney devotees

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NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: The WORLD History Book. Today, milestones for Disney devotees, sports savants, and opera aficionados. Here’s senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.


KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Opera buffs consider it one of the greatest of all time: The Magic Flute premiered in Vienna on September 30th, 1791—just two months before its composer’s death.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the two-act opera to a German libretto by Emanuel Shikaneder. The story takes place in a mythical land between the sun and the moon. The queen of the night charges a prince and a birdcatcher to save her daughter from a magician. On their quest, the magician reveals the queen’s evil nature, turning their mission on its head.

Listen to Diana Damrau in the role of the queen—a part known for its difficulty—at The Royal Opera in London:


After that first performance 230 years ago, the opera drew enormous crowds. It reached hundreds of performances during the 1790s. Biographers say Mozart was thrilled with the success—well, for nine weeks, anyway. On December 5, 1790, the musical phenom died under mysterious circumstances at his home. He was just 35.


Turning from an opera overture to an at-bat overachiever.


Eighty years have passed since baseball great Ted Williams, playing for the Boston Red Sox, achieved a .406 batting average. That achievement in the 1941 season made him the last major league baseball player to bat .400 or better.

ANNOUNCER: Remember this day, fans, September 28, 1941, it may be a history-making day. Red Sox and As in a double-header here at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, but all eyes are on this man: Ted Williams, gunning for a .400 season…

And he did nab the record that day. Going into those last two games of the season, Williams was batting .39955. Since that rounded up to .400, Red Sox manager Joe Cronin suggested Williams sit the game out, rather than risk his average going south. Williams answered, “If I'm going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”

ANNOUNCER: Ted finishes the double-header six for eight, batting .406. Not too bad a day.

Williams is still known as the greatest hitter of all time. The slugger studied hitting obsessively, improving the speed of his swing by using lighter bats than others. He only swung at pitches that entered what he called his “happy zone,” a small area where he believed he could hit .400 or better.

Williams served in the military in World War II and the Korean War, missing five seasons in the prime of his career. But he still nabbed a boatload of honors: 19-times an All Star, two-time American League MVP, two-time Triple Crown winner, and the list goes on.

Well, we opened today’s edition of History Book with a magic flute, and we’ll close with the so-called “most magical place on earth.” Walt Disney World opened near Orlando, Florida, half a century ago, on October 1st, 1971.


Disney execs had seen great success with the 1955 opening of Disneyland in California. But market research showed fewer than 5 percent of the park’s visitors came from east of the Mississippi—even though 75 percent of the U.S. population lived there.

Walt Disney, ever the visionary, took a liking to some swampy land in Bay Lake, Florida, for his next big venture. His company used some real estate sleight of hand, buying up over 30,000 acres—that’s 48 square miles—under dummy corporations. They didn’t want speculators catching wind of the plans and driving up land prices.

Construction began, municipalities formed, and on that first day of October in 1971, eager Mickey fans filed into the Magic Kingdom for the first time. Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Village Resorts also opened that day. Doing stand-up in the lobby of the Contemporary as part of the grand opening festivities, Bob Hope joked that resort planners had really thought of everything.

HOPE: A lot of hotels put a Bible in your room. Here, Billy Graham comes up and reads it to you. (laughter)

Walt Disney died in 1966, five years before his dream was realized. In dedicating the park, his brother and business partner Roy said that just like we know Henry Ford’s name because of his cars, Walt Disney will remain in memory “as long as Walt Disney World is here.”


One thing far from memory, though: affordable park tickets. Admission prices in 1971 were $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for ages 12 to 18, and one dollar for children under 12. Today, a one-day ticket to a single Disney World park starts at $109.

That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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