Today in History
History's Happenings for September 24
Capping an illustrious Yankee career that began in 1920, an aging George Herman "Babe" Ruth played his last game in "the house that Ruth built" on this day in 1934. He was released by the Yankees at the end of the 1934 season, and left for a short stint with the Boston Braves before retiring in 1935.
During his tour with the New York Yankees, Ruth set the single season home run record (60 in 1927), which held until fellow Yankee Roger Maris broke it in 1961, and the vast majority of his career home run record (714), which survived until Atlanta Braves hitter Hank Aaron beat it in 1974. Because of the risk of letting him get a hit, Ruth led the American League in forced walks almost a dozen times in his career, and also frequently held top honors for RBI's and runs scored.
In a life which blended athletic heroism and hero-worship with frequent bad press for profligate personal habits, the Babe never forgot his roots at Saint Mary's Industrial School for Boys, and worked tirelessly for charity, especially those for children.
Acknowledged by many baseball fans as the sport's greatest all-time player, the Babe joined Ty Cobb and three other early legends as the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1936. Ruth died in 1948.
The fourth and probably best known Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court was born on this day in 1755 in Virginia. Trained briefly as a lawyer, John Marshall enlisted in the Continental Army, was promoted to Captain in 1777 and fought in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Valley Forge.
After the War, he served three terms in the Virginia Legislature and, at Washington's behest, as a delegate to France in 1795. He served briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1799 and, having refused a variety of other federal postings, finally accepted the position of Secretary of State under President John Adams.
On January 31, 1801, He was appointed by Adams as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, wherein he served until his death on June 6, 1835.
Under its most renowned Chief Justice, the previously ineffective Supreme Court found its stride and produced many important decisions dealing with the concepts and application of the new Constitution. Perhaps most importantly, the Marshall Court discovered the doctrine of Judicial Review, the process under which the Federal Courts may find legislation or executive decisions to be unconstitutional. Absent from the Constitution and little used in its first hundred years, it has kept the High Court busy indeed in the last half century.
Paradoxically, the case that handed Marshall the opportunity to discover this handy privilege was of his own making, during his tenure as Adams' Secretary of State. Read more in Marbury v. Madison.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
In 1869, financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempted to corner the American gold market by quietly acquiring interests in the commodity.
As with most such efforts -- remember the Hunt brothers' attempts to corner silver in the 1970's -- the bottom eventually fell out and, on Black Friday, September 24, 1869, the market in general reacted to plunging gold prices with a broad financial pullback and a serious panic in the investing community at large.
Gould, a wealthy manipulator known for questionable stock deals and aggressive investing tactics, was later sued for his shady dealings in worthless Erie Railroad stock. By the 1890's he had straightened out, investing wisely in western railroads and ownership of the New York World newspaper and the Western Union Telegraph Company.
In defiance of both the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and several Supreme Court decisions including 1954's Brown v. Board of Education, Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus refused to order the integration of Arkansas schools. In September, 1957, he ordered the National Guard to specifically prevent nine black students from attending Central High School in Little Rock.
On September 23, following continuing unrest and attacks on black students, President Eisenhower ordered Federal troops into Little Rock to restore order and safeguard the students as they made their way into previously all-white schools.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On September 24, 1969, trial proceedings began in the Chicago courtroom of federal Judge Julius Hoffman for the seven defendants accused of inciting a riot outside of the 1968 Democratic Convention in the city.
Originally the "Chicago Eight", Black Panther leader Bobby Seale had been so unruly early in the proceedings that his trial was separated from the rest.
The disturbances for which the defendants were charged centered around protest against the Vietnam War, and against what they perceived as "repressive government" in general. Riots tore through the streets of Chicago as Democrats gathered there to nominate a presidential candidate and local police, in their efforts to maintain order, often went the limit on the use of force.
Protesters David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, and Lee Weiner were singled out by the U. S. Attorney General, John Mitchell, because of their leadership of the groups in question more than their actual participation in criminal riots. This fact -- coupled with a healthy dose of personal perspective -- helped keep the trial controversial.
In the end, after a rancorous trial devoid of normal decorum, five of the defendants were found guilty of inciting a riot, but all of the findings, and most of the many contempt citations, were reversed on appeal. Judge Hoffman was criticized for "biased rulings."
Every American citizen has the right to free speech. No one has the right to riot or incite same, without paying the price to the legal authority. The Chicago Seven got away too easily, marking the beginning of an era.