December 25, 1989: Storm Front

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(Pictured: Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner, together again.)

December 25, 1989, was a Monday. Much of the United States is gripped by record cold. Fifty-six cities have set low temperature records in recent days. Temperatures between 20 and 40 below were recorded across the Midwest late last week, although they moderated a little in time for Christmas. Parts of the South are experiencing their first white Christmas in 100 years. Tallahassee, Florida, gets a trace of snow today, and in Miami, for the second day in a row, the mercury falls below freezing. Citrus crops have been largely wiped out across the South. Yesterday, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, got 14 inches of snow, and elsewhere in the state, snowdrifts are as much as eight feet high. At least 77 deaths have been blamed on the cold since December 15, including that of New Orleans mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial, who suffered cardiac arrest last night after an asthma attack induced by the cold. Newspapers around the country this weekend carried a review of a new book by climatologist Stephen Schneider titled Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?

Since the opening of the Berlin Wall in November, Communist governments in eastern Europe have been reforming and/or falling. In Romania, revolution against the government of Nicolae Ceausescu began eight days ago. On Friday, Ceausescu was deposed as president, and he fled his palace after it was invaded by protesters. On Saturday, he was captured in the Romanian city of Targoviste. Today, after being convicted of illegal gathering of wealth and genocide by a revolutionary court, Ceausescu and his wife are executed by firing squad. Last Wednesday, a United States force of 28,000 troops and 300 military aircraft invaded Panama. The goal of Operation Just Cause is to capture Panamanian president Manuel Noriega, neutralize military units loyal to him, and protect American lives and property. Today, many of the military objectives have been accomplished, although fighting continues. Noriega has yet to be nabbed; yesterday he sought asylum at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.

Billy Martin, who had five different stints managing the New York Yankees between 1975 and 1988, dies in a traffic accident at age 61. The college bowl season continues today; 16 games will be played between now and New Year’s Day. Michigan State beats Hawaii 33-13 in the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu. In the annual Christmas Day Blue/Gray college all-star game in Montgomery, Alabama, the Gray team, made up of players from southern colleges, beats the Blue, 28-10. The National Football League regular season ends tonight. The Minnesota Vikings beat the Cincinnati Bengals 29-21, knocking them out of the AFC playoffs and taking the last available NFC playoff spot from the Green Bay Packers. Yesterday, the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-10, ending the Cowboys’ dismal 1-and-15 season. The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are the top seeds in the playoffs, which will begin with wild-card games on New Year’s Eve.

ABC’s Monday Night Football (which is preceded by an episode of MacGyver) is the only program on network TV tonight that isn’t a repeat, and it wins the night. CBS airs six sitcoms in a row: Major Dad, The Famous Teddy Z, Murphy Brown, Designing Women, Newhart, and Doctor Doctor. NBC fills primetime with the 1965 movie The Sound of Music. Fox presents 21 Jump Street and Alien Nation. At Z100 in New York, “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic is the new #1 song, knocking Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to #3. “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins is #2. Also in the Top 10: Michael Bolton, New Kids on the Block, and Milli Vanilli. There’s little movement on the chart: Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” makes the biggest move, up four spots to #17. “Janie’s Got a Gun” by Aerosmith debuts in the Top 30 at #25. The #1 album in New York again this week is Billy Joel’s Storm Front.

Perspective From the Present: On Christmas Eve 1989, my wife and sister-in-law and I sat in my parents’ living room reading, as Mother made dinner in the kitchen while Dad was out milking his cows. Christmas music played softly on the radio. After a while my sister-in-law piped up, “It’s too quiet. In my family, there’s always an argument or a fight on Christmas.” So—of course—Ann and I pretended to have one to make her feel more at home. I hope that your Christmas has been quiet. Or noisy, whichever you prefer.

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