Author Archives: JQB

Terrifically Truthful Tom Seaver

On a New York Mets game radio broadcast some years ago, the announcers hosted a big guest for an on-air visit:  Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, one of the best pitchers in modern baseball history, and the best pitcher and greatest player in Mets history.

They had a good, wide-ranging conversation.  I don’t remember particulars, but it was interesting because Seaver was very smart and, well, he was Seaver.

Then one of the announcers snuck in a commercial plug for the Mets local minor league team, the Class A short-season league Brooklyn Cyclones.  He said something like, “Come down to Coney Island tomorrow to see the Brooklyn Cyclones, The Mets of Tomorrow.”

Then they went back to Seaver.  And he had to set the record straight.

Well actually, Seaver said, none of the Brooklyn Cyclones is going to make it to the Mets.  They’re good kids and they love the game, but in baseball today the real major league prospects start in AA or AAA ball, or they get moved there before they turn 20.  The Cyclones are older than that.  They’re guys who are going to finish their playing days in the minors.  They’re in short-season A League because they’re not prospects.  It’s tough, but that’s just the way it is—at some point every player doesn’t have enough talent to keep playing, or to play at a higher level.

Whoa.  At least a few seconds of dead air followed that dissertation.

I remember hoping that no Brooklyn Cyclone, and even more that none of their parents or other loved ones, was listening.

The interview resumed, but they wrapped it up pretty quickly—after that one, they had to get “Tom Terrific” out of the booth.

Too terrifically truthful.  And honestly just great.

National Security on the Night Shift, June 17, 1972

Forty-eight years ago this evening, Watergate Office Building security guard Frank Wills changed American history for the better by doing his job well.

Here’s the log that he and then the next officer, on the day shift, kept.  It shows Wills’s discovery that two doors on Basement level 2 had been wedged open, and that a door on B3 and another door were unlocked.  It also shows that Wills called the District of Columbia police, who investigated and confirmed that a door had been taped open.

Here is my rough transcription of the handwritten log—Mr. Wills was not a perfect speller, but his log entries were solid, generally recording what he did and found on that momentous night shift:

[Handwritten entries by Watergate Security Officer Frank Wills:]

6–17–72

Wills on duty 12:00

Left                 Return             B2 Level Stuffed With

12:05               12:20 AM        Paper Both Doars

also one Doan on

B3 level was open

The other was stuff

with paper and the

Doar annex outside

Off office bldg. was

open

12:30 AM        1:00 AM          Cut all lights out

In hall

1:47 AM          1:55 AM          Call police found

tape In Doare Call

Police two make

A inspection on the

Inspection Police 25

Sir Sgt Jackson made

out RePort

5:22 AM          6:20 AM          Secured all B1-B2-B3

Levels

6:25 AM          6:30 AM          unlock trash doar.

6:30 AM          7:05 AM          Levels B1 B2 B3 Secured

7:30 AM          Levels B1 B2 B3 Secured

[Handwritten entries by a second person:]

8:00 AM                                  Made reliev + men informed

about the Break in   Check floors + return

Back to Desk – 8 55 (AM)

[Resumed handwritten entries by Officer Wills:]

8:00                 9:00                 officer came back

Two invesgiate Return

Two lobby.  Wills off Duty

Two invesgiating officers

Carl Schaffler, Sgt. Paul

Leeper.

The D.C. police investigated inside the Watergate building, found five burglars in the offices of the Democratic National Committee, and arrested them.

Those burglars, in turned out, were working for President Richard M. Nixon—investigations established that his White House, his administration, and his reelection campaign had committed many serious crimes.

On August 8, 1974, President Nixon resigned from office.

A week later, Frank Willis appeared on a television show and told his story.

Thank you, sir, for your example.

Death Notices & Longevity

In this trying time, death notices are tragic but also, sometimes, quite consoling.

An example:  On March 22, 2020, the New York Times published this notice of Dr. Salah Al-Askari’s death.  He lived more than ninety years, a great span.  He was an accomplished physician and researcher whose life and skill benefited many others.

One particular is that in 1967, Dr. Al-Askari performed the first successful transplant of a kidney from a cadaver into a living person, and today, more than fifty years later, that kidney recipient is still living.

That fact makes, no doubt, that person’s day.  And it made mine.

Wisdom about Trusting Stories About Dead Guys

Frank Anderson, a senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, died last month.  As his obituaries report (here is one in the New York Times and here is one in the Washington Post), he worked on major matters, including the provision of U.S. covert military aid to the mujahadeen fighting the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Mr. Anderson was a source for author Kai Bird’s excellent book The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (2014).  Bob Ames was another very important CIA officer during the 1970s and 1980s, until he was killed in the truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in 1983.

Anderson’s NYT obit includes this quote from Bird about advice he received from Anderson as he (Bird) was researching Ames:  “[E]xercise caution with stories that can only be corroborated by dead guys.  Fabricated stories are almost never made up out of whole cloth, but are made by stitching together generally known facts with bits of uncheckable fantasy.”

I think that’s wise.  I try to remember that as I interview people about now-gone persons and then write about their history.

And of course I hope that it’s wisdom that Anderson actually said to Bird.

Mr. Bird is a serious, skilled researcher and writer, so I trust that it is — that’s just a joke.

Update re The Jackson List

As you might know, I write about Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), United States Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg chief prosecutor of Nazi war criminals following World War II.  Jackson is one of the most enduringly significant lives of the 20th century.  Among other things, I am a Jackson biographer, discoverer and editor of his acclaimed book That Man on President Franklin D. Roosevelt (which also is a Jackson autobiography), author of many articles on Jackson, a regular lecturer across the U.S. and internationally on Jackson and related topics, and a fellow and board member at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York.

An outgrowth of all that is that I email a few notes each month, on Justice Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg, and/or related topics, to “The Jackson List.”  It is a one-way, private email list that reaches many thousands of direct subscribers—teachers, students, scholars, lawyers, Judges, and other learners—and, through their forwarding, reposting, blogging, etc., many others around the world.

In the past, I have used this blog site to post items as they are sent to The Jackson List.  But it has migrated to a new platform and better technology.  (Thank you, IT aces!)  So from now on, new Jackson List posts will go by email to The Jackson List and, simultaneously, be posted on its archive site—

https://thejacksonlist.com/

To subscribe to The Jackson List, sign up there, or send me an email.

Thanks very much for your interest, and for spreading the word.

“The Best Man That We Had. Recently.”

Three generations of a super family—the matriarch, age 93, plus her daughters, a son-in-law, and three adult grandchildren—invited me to dinner last night.  It all, including great conversations, was a delight.

One conversation concerned Grandma’s 1950 engagement and wedding.

Grandma’s health now isn’t as strong as it once was.  But she took great, smiling delight last night in being with her loved ones.  She answered direct questions and nodded and smiled when she got hugged (a lot).  Mostly, as the conversations ran around the dinner table, she watched and enjoyed the good food.

So we spoke about the 1950 wedding.  Then our conversation turned to who thinks what about the current Democratic presidential candidates.

Grandma spoke then, quietly but very clearly:  “Who was the best man that we had?  Recently.”

A granddaughter, thinking that Grandma was going back to the previous conversation, sought clarification:  “Do you mean who was the best man at your wedding, Grandma?”

“No, no—” she responded.

One of her daughters knew what she was saying—that she was joining in our talk of politics and presidents.  “Do you mean Barack Obama, Mom?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Yes.”

Yes.

Jackson List: Respecting the Mother of a Man Killed in Auschwitz (1946)

When the international trial of the Nazi arch-criminals began in Nuremberg in November 1945, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (in English, Hoess) was known to have been the commandant of…


UPDATE:  This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with citations, photographs, etc., now is in on the Jackson List archive site, which is searchable, in book look” PDF file form.

 

Jackson List: Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.’s Jackson Lecture at Chautauqua Institution

On July 1, 2019, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., former Solicitor General of the United States, delivered Chautauqua Institution’s 15th annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court…

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UPDATE:  This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with photographs, now is on the Jackson List archive site, which is searchable, in PDF film form.

Click here for video of Mr. Verrilli’s lecture.

Click here for video excerpts from a Robert H. Jackson Center interview.
with Mr. Verrilli.

 

Jackson List: Update on DOJ’s Much-Coveted AG Jackson Portrait

During his seven-plus years as a high official in the Executive Branch of the United States Government, Robert H. Jackson served mostly in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Yes, Jackson…


UPDATE:  This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with citations, photographs, etc., now is in on the Jackson List archive site, which is searchable, in book look” PDF file form.

Jackson List: Heard July 5th on the National Mall: An Impending Supreme Court Justice’s Independence Day Speech (1941)

Below, for reading on this day after Independence Day and on other days, is the speech that Robert H. Jackson, then Attorney General of the United States, delivered in a radio studio on Friday, July 4, 1941. ….


UPDATE:  This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with citations, photographs, etc., now is in on the Jackson List archive site, which is searchable, in book look” PDF file form.