If you’re ever near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, you may see a gravestone that notes that today was the passing of Stephen Bishop, “First Guide & Explorer of Mammoth Cave.”

There’s evidence that Native Americans explored some of the cave thousands of years ago, but in modern times, the caves had remained relatively unexplored until around the turn of the 19th century.

People had begun giving tours of the site, and there had been some attempts at mining there, but only a few miles had been explored.

Then, in 1838 a man bought the cave for $5,000 and sent the people he enslaved to explore his new purchase.

That’s where Stephen Bishop comes in.

He explored the unexplored parts of the cave, even parts people had avoided out of concern they wouldn’t make it back out.

He crossed through an area now known as the Bottomless Pit by putting down a ladder and crossing it – in the dark – with a lit lantern in his teeth.

Bishop would later create a map from memory of the cave, a map that would be used for decades afterward.

Geologists sought him out to learn from his expertise.

And when he and the two enslaved men he trained, Mattison Bransford and Nick Bransford, weren’t exploring the cave, they were giving public tours, sometimes to famous people like the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Later, Bishop married – he named an area in the cave Charlotte’s Grotto for his wife – and they had a son, bought land and eventually gained their freedom.

While Stephen Bishop only lived to be 37, in many spots in Mammoth Cave, some of them extremely hard to reach, you can still find his signature, made with the smoke from his candle.

He remains a large presence in the cave he helped to share with the world.

Today in 1976, a very odd moment in baseball history: a game was called off at the Houston Astrodome because of a huge rainstorm.

The stadium was dry, thanks to its famous dome, but there was flooding on the roads leading to the ballpark, which was 45 feet below ground level.

So, with no game, the Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates had dinner together on the field, right behind second base.

Do you think they ate peanuts and Cracker Jack?

Enslaved Tour Guide Stephen Bishop Made Mammoth Cave the Must-See Destination It Is Today (Smithsonian)

Hoffman: Astros made history with a rainout (Houston Chronicle)

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Illustration published R. Clarke and Company in 1882 – Library of Congress, Public Domain, via Wikicommons

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