Category Archives: Dead Presidents

“What Did The GM Know and When Did He Know It?”

Way back ten, eleven years ago, before there were blogs and other social media, my buddies and I would email each other quite frequently at all odd hours. We were friends, once removed, with a bunch of bikers known as the Go Nowhere Gang. They weren’t apathetic losers. To the contrary, they were a smart group of guys with good careers. They just didn’t go far that often. Their idea of a long ride was to the next town.
Even back then, I would occasionally opine on sports. The emails are long gone now. They probably are part of the cyber mist, but I recall writing about Tiger Woods and Kevin Harvick. Around this time, IU fired Bobby Knight and I wrote one with the witty subject line “Indiana’s Knightmare.” The parallels aren’t perfect, but the recently revealed scandal at Penn State reminded me of those days. I probably would have dashed off some email full of bullshit about Joe Paterno to my friends. I’m not smatter now, but I hope that I am wiser.

One thing that that scandal did accomplish is that it got Dennis and Callahan to stop talking about the Red Sox collapse. For those of you who get their power delivered by CL&P, Boston did not make the playoffs this year. Terry Francona is gone. Theo Epstein left for Chicago. Dirty Water turned to vinegar. I knew that Epstein’s grandfather and great uncle wrote Casablanca. I did not know that his sister wrote for the TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets. (I once complained that Detective Munch has a longer Wikipedia entry than Richard Belzer himself and someone accused me of Wikigroaning, but I digress.) That show crossed over with Law and Order several times. Epstein helped write an episode called “For God and Country.” Jerry Orbach guest starred as Lenny Briscoe.

Arthur Branch was the Manhattan DA on L&O for a few years. Fred Thompson played him. Thompson actually had some prosecutorial experience and was minority counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee. Another counsel was then Cubs fan Hillary Rodham. She was a Yale Law classmate of Larry Lucchino. Lucchino was counsel on the House committee considering impeachment. He was a protégé of Edward Bennett Williams and would later become Theo Epstein’s boss. BTW, Lucchino was a Princeton alum who roomed and played hoops with Bill Bradley, but that’s a story for another day.

That Senate Watergate Committee and its hearing was my first exposure to politics. I vaguely recall it being on TV instead of whatever kids show I wanted to watch at the time. I’ve had an on and off fascination with it since then. I’ve saved only a few newspaper clippings in my life, but one was a Hartford Courant article from 1999 speculating that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. This was a few years before Bob Woodward and Felt admitted this. I’ve read quite a few books on the topic over the years; the Woodward and Bernstein ones as well as bios by many of the co-conspirators like Liddy, Dean, and Haldeman. At one point, I was sympathetic to Nixon. These days, not so much. Anyways, it is back in the news again. Nixon’s grand jury testimony has been released.

Penn State? That’s not a scandal. Watergate? Now that was a scandal. /Crocodile Dundee


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Veteran’s Day 1933

If you go back almost eighty years, you might recognize a football game. But it has changed more than baseball; our other big American sport. As of 1933, coaches could not call plays. If a sub was sent into the game, he could not speak in the huddle. Substitution was allowed, but it was very limited. Once a player came out, he couldn’t return until the next quarter. Many men played all 60 minutes.

The forward pass was legal and had been a tactic for at least 20 years after Notre dame beat army in 1913. But the rules committees enacted rules that discouraged the aerial game. The passer had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage. A team was only allowed one incompletion during a drive. And an incomplete pass thrown in the end zone resulted in a touchback for the other team. Single wing tactics reigned supreme. It was like the Wildcat that some teams use for a change of pace.

In 1933, at the depths of the Depression, Veteran’s Day fell on a Saturday. Michigan beat Iowa 10-6 that day. The Wolverines were on their way to the national championship. A few hundred miles to the south and west of Ann Arbor, a young announcer in Davenport was recreating the game for Hawkeye fans. He was reading the play by play off the teletype. His name was Ronald Reagan. Michigan did not allow broadcasters at the Big House, so he stayed home. Had he gone to the game, his path might have crossed that of a benchwarmer from Grand Rapids. The sub would later be a standout center, but the Wolverines had a senior named Chuck Bernard. The world knows that benchwarmer better as Gerald Ford. Ford and Reagan’s paths did cross on the campaign trail in 1976, but they might have crossed that day 43 years earlier.

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Russell, Kansas

What are the odds that a small town like Russell, Kansas would have two senators growing up there during the 1930s? Russell was an oil boomtown. Must have been one of the better places to be in the Great Plains during the Depression; what with the Dust Bowl and everything. Arlen Specter grew up there before moving on to Yale Law School and Philadelphia.

On November 22nd, 1963 JFK was shot. Lyndon Johnson named a commission to investigate the assassination. It was called the Warren Commission after Chief Justice Earl Warren. One of the members was Republican congressman Gerald Ford. He tabbed Specter to become one of the lawyers for the commission. Specter was he one who developed the “single bullet theory”, the one where Kennedy and John Connolly were hit by the same bullet.

Ford was an up and coming star in the Republican Party. At the 1964 GOP Convention, he nominated George Romney (Mitt’s father) for president. Barry Goldwater won the nomination and got crushed by LBJ. So did the Republicans in general. They lost quite a few seats in the House. A group of Young Turks in the House revolted against leadership and named Ford as the Minority leader. They included Charles Goddell (NFL commish Roger’s dad), Donald Rumsfeld, and Bob Dole. Ford was ecstatic. It was his dream to someday become Speaker. Bt that wasn’t what Fate had in mind for him.

One of the consequences of the JFK assassination was the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. This Amendment is one you rarely hear about (it isn’t a hot-button issue), but it provides a way to fill Vice Presidential vacancies. The last time the U.S. had no Vice president was between Kennedy’s death and the swearing in of Hubert Humphrey in January of 1965. Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and Nixon had to pick a new veep. He wanted to pick someone like John Connolly, Nelson, Rockefeller, or Ronald Reagan, but Ford was picked instead. Congress would have it no other way.

In 1976, Ford ran on his own. Rockefeller was his veep at the time, but Ford wanted to placate the more conservative wing of the party, so he nominated Bob Dole as his running mate. Dole was also from Russell, Kansas. His father ran a small creamery. He had large scales for weighing milk. One of his customers was a guy who ran a junkyard named Harry. He’d often use Doles scales to weigh his junk. Harry was Harry Specter and his son was Arlen. Two senators came from that town and they both were connected to Gerald Ford.

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More about the Leaders of the Free World (and baseball!)

I visited the FDR Home in Hyde Park with my wife and mother-in-law a couple of months ago. It was right after the Bowash earthquake of 2011 and right before Hurricane Irene (why don’t they name earthquakes, too?)

I picked up a souvenier in the gift shop. It was a set of documents relating to presidents and our national pastime. I think it has something from everyone from Hoover to Clinton. My favorites are the JFK telegrams regarding Jackie Robinson and the memo from Donald Rumsfeld recommending that Gerald Ford call Sparky Anderson to congratulate him on the Reds 1975 World Series win. Ford was more of a football man and I know he opted to watch Michigan-Michigan State instead of Game One of the World Seires. (Check out my post from last week about the presidential diary.)

Take a click and enjoy!

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More on Ford and other Presidential Stuff

Here’s a Time magazine article on the crash that I mentioned the other day when Gerald Ford’s limo collided with a car driven by a young James Salamites. Here are some other links when you Google Ford Salamites (I hope that works.) Whiskeypedia has a page on the Presidential state car; as it is called.

I was watching Pawn Star one nite and Rick Harrison said something about the first presidential limo that didn’t jibe with what I found on this page and elsewhere online. I forget what it was, but it wasn’t the first time his story didn’t check out for me. He’s like a bald Cliff Claven. I enjoy the show, but someone should start up a Fairness and Accuracy on Pawn Stars website.

Fellow SABRite Bob Timmerman wrote an excellent blog about presidential bios. I knew of it at the time, but hadn’t started reading it until recently. Another friend, Tim Morris, is also a man of presidential letters. Forget the Ford story for a moment, I have a presidential accident story I like even better. Franklin Pierce allegedly ran over an elderly woman with his carriage. Unfortunately, according to Mental Floss, that story is untrue.

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A Buick, Not A Lincoln

I’ve been doing some research on Gerald Ford recently. For what it is worth, he sounds better and better the more I read about him. Yesterday was the 36th anniversary of a comic moment in his presidency. He was in Hartford and was heading back to Bradley International. The Secret Service forgot to block one of the side streets and a 19 year old kid was able to hit the Presidential limo with his Buick LeSabre. This was soon after a couple of assassination attempts, so there was a some concern about that, but it turns out that it was an honest mistake.

The Ford Administration kept a diary and the incident is mentioned matter-of-factly. (If you have a few hours to kill, you can read the whole diary online. I read a month or so and found it oddly fascinating.)

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Dead Presidents #3

He wasn’t a president, but today is the feast day of Alexander Hamilton and his death was more interesting than the death of most of the presidents.

Aawon Buh!

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Dead Presidents #2

Thomas Jefferson is on the $2 bill. A certain gangster-owned legitimate business near me likes to hand them out as change for some reason. Jefferson was no fan of doctors. He would gaze upwards for a buzzard whenever he saw three physicians together. He especially distrusted the practice of bleeding and purging.

He had urinary problems in his last months, possibly from an enlarged prostate. But what most likely killed him dehydration resulting from amoebic dysentery.

Jefferson became comatose on July 2, 1826. On the third he awakened and asked his doctor, Robley Dunglison, “Is it the fourth?” He died 50 minutes into the next day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, a few hours before his onetime rival John Adams.

Jefferson was buried at Monticello. Monticello still stands today thanks to Uriah P. Levy, a Jewish Naval officer who admired Jefferson’s contributions to religious liberty and who believed that Monticello should be preserved as a monument.

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Dead Presidents #1A

I found the announcement of James Madison’s death in the Hartford Courant. It was in the July 4th edition of that paper. News travelled slower back then. It wasn’t a separate story. Instead, it was included with a couple of other dispatches from that part of the country. One of the other ones involved a son of Francis Scott Key.

His son Francis was a midshipman at Annapolis. But he was expelled for killing another USNA student in a duel. I never heard that story before. I had heard about his brother, Philip Barton Key. Philip took Tersa Sickles as his lover. When her husband Daniel found out, he shot Key dead. At the trial, Sickles pled temporary insanity. He was the first in the United States to use this defense. He was acquitted and went on to become a general in the Civil War; thanks to political connections. He wasn’t exactly a military mastermind.

Finally, I got a note from my friend Chris Jaffe about yesterday’s entry.

The last Founding Fathers were James Madison and John Marshall, with Madison outlived Marshall by almost a year.

The only possible F.F. to outlive them both was Aaron Burr. His Founding claim to fame was involvement in the 1775 invasion of Quebec. Pretty much everyone else of note from that period was dead by then.

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Dead Presidents #1

I guess that this is ostensibly a baseball blog. I love baseball and enjoyed driving through the eastern part of the state yesterday afternoon while listening to the Red Sox – Giants game on the radio, but the baseball muse hasn’t been inspiring me lately, but that’s okay.

I got the idea for writing what may turn out to be a new series from Alice Cooper. I was listening to “Nights With Alice Cooper” Friday and he mentioned some presidential trivia. One of the things he mentioned was that Teddy Roosevelt died of a tooth infection. This sparked my interest. I had a nasty one three weeks ago. Good thing I had it treated, no? I went to further research this on Whiskeypedia, but it wasn’t mentioned there. However, a further Google search revealed a couple of sites that discuss presidential health and demise.

Today marks the 174th anniversary of the death of James Madison. He was one of the last of the surviving Founding Fathers if not THE last. Most know that Adams and Jefferson died ten years earlier on the Fourth of July. His successor James Monroe also died on the on the Fourth in 1831. According to Dr. Zebra, “…(H)e refused the requests of friends’ to take stimulants in order to prolong his life until July 4, the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. . … Finally, one morning, a few days before the 4th, Madison was found dead in his bedroom, sitting in front of his untouched breakfast tray. ” His last words were “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear. I always talk better lying down.” A niece had asked him what was wrong.

He was buried in the Madison family gravesite at their estate Montpelier in central Virginia.

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