It started innocently enough. I went to the www.net54baseball.com site in search of blog kernels, and promptly came upon a site dedicated to the childhood tobacco card collection of famed Georgia statesman Richard B. Russell.
That was a fairly innocuous but intriguing start. I had just finished reading Master of the Senate by Richard Caro about LBJ’s years in the Senate, which included a great deal of information about the famous Georgian who had been Johnson’s mentor but was also a formidable opponent to civil rights legislation throughout his time in public life.
Turns out, Russell kept a cigar box of his childhood tobacco cards, which in turn ended up in the larger research collection at the Russell Library. I am the ultimate cyber dunce, so it took a little wranglin’ to get around the site, but it’s worth it because the library researchers did a nice job of putting the cards in the broader historical context of the period. If you go to the site, don't click on the section that says "Browse the guides to the Richard B. Russell Jr. Collection," unless, of course, you want the broader picture. Instead, click on the various sections on the left-hand side under "Additional rResources," which takes you through his collection.
It was while I was grazing around in cyberspace to research this blog that I then came upon a listing about LBJ’s efforts to get Russell to be a member of the Warren Commission, which provided the official investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. This too, I remembered from the book.
Russell had resisted joining the Commission because it was headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, not surprisingly despised by Russell because of their, uh, divergent views on civil rights. LBJ then convinced Russell to join the Commission by recounting to his mentor how he, Johnson, had convinced the reluctant Chief Justice to head the historic investigation.
When Warren balked, LBJ mentioned that J. Edgar Hoover hhad some fascinating information about the Chief Justice and a certain visit to Mexico City, whereupon Warren started to cry (LBJ said) and quickly changed his mind and said he would do it.
Yikes! I’d always known about J. Edgar Hoover’s legendary “files” that reportedly kept just about everybody in government under his heel, but I was still impressed that LBJ would not-so-subtly threaten the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the possibility of revealing details of some sordid event in Mexico City. He even made him cry. And here we thought that political hardball was a product of this millennium.
I’ve always contended that baseball cards can be a great educational tool, but even I never imagined just how true that observation can be. I’m not sure it works quite as well with a stack of canary yellow 1991 Fleer, though.