For the Jackson List:
United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a Chicago native, has been rooting for the Chicago Cubs almost since they last won a World Series—that was in 1908, just twelve years before Stevens was born.
As Justice Stevens explained in a great interview posted on SCOTUSblog this morning (click here), he has seen many Cubs baseball games in Wrigley Field. On October 1, 1932, for example, he attended the third game of that year’s World Series and witnessed Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot” home run … and thus saw the New York Yankees beat the Cubs, 7-5, on their way to sweeping that World Series.
On that day in 1932, a man named James M. Marsh, age nineteen, was listening to that game on the radio in western Pennsylvania and keeping score in his scorebook. Fifteen years later, Jim Marsh was clerking for Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Supreme Court. Marsh became a close friend of John Stevens, who was clerking then for Justice Wiley Rutledge. Marsh learned of Stevens’s love for the Cubs, and that he had seen Babe Ruth hit the called shot. In time, Marsh located his 1932 scorecard and gave it to Stevens. Justice Stevens then displayed it on the wall of his Supreme Court chambers.
In contrast to Stevens and Marsh (and many of us), Justice Robert H. Jackson was no baseball fan. In 1951, for example, when Major League Baseball had leadership troubles and Jackson was reported to be under consideration to become its next commissioner, he found the idea distasteful.
In summer 1950, as Jackson was preparing to take a cross-country train trip with his friend Harrison Tweed, a leading New York City lawyer, and he wrote Jackson to suggest that they see a baseball game on a layover day in Chicago, Jackson wrote back immediately, voting no:
Personally, I don’t care much about baseball and haven’t seen a game in a good many years. Why don’t we take our chances on what we can do during the day[?] Maybe some good friend like [Chicago lawyer] Tap Gregory will come to our rescue. I may get in touch with him.
Two summers early, indeed while Jim Marsh was beginning his second year as Jackson’s law clerk, Jackson commented privately, and not approvingly, that Babe Ruth’s death had garnered more news attention than had the death of Tweed’s law partner Walter Hope. (Really.)
But Justice Jackson did have a near-brush with the Chicago Cubs, and, indeed, with the Cubs in the World Series. In early October 1945, beginning on the 6th of the month, Jackson was working in Berlin, in preparation for the impending prosecution of Nazi war criminals that he would be leading in Nuremberg. Jackson kept busy during the next four days with numerous meetings, some social occasions, and his own work. But really he was waiting for U.S. and other nations’ judges to arrive in Berlin so that the International Military Tribunal could hold its first session there (in the Soviet zone of military occupation), formally receiving the prosecutors’ indictment of the defendants, before adjourning to Nuremberg (in the U.S. zone) to conduct the trial.
By October 10, 1945, Jackson, knowing that he had much work to do in Nuremberg, was fed up with waiting around in Berlin. He left two of his deputies to continue the work there. Jackson had command of a military plane, and he ordered it to fly him and some of his team that evening to Nuremberg.
During the flight, Justice Jackson stayed in his seating area on the plane, I am sure. But others, including his son and executive assistant Bill Jackson, crowded around the cockpit. They managed to listen there to a radio broadcast of the final game of the World Series, which was being played in Wrigley Field. (Alas for Cubs fans such as then-first year law student John Paul Stevens, just back in Chicago and civilian life after four years of wartime service in the U.S. Navy, the Detroit Tigers won that World Series game seven, beating the Chicago Cubs, 9-3, and thus the Series.)
In 2016, the long wait of Justice Stevens and all Cubs fans for a World Series championship is compelling.
It bears at least passing note, however, that another Justice, Harold H. Burton (1888-1964), would be rooting the other way. Justice Burton was colleague of Justice Jackson and Justice Rutledge on the Court, and Burton was everyone’s model of judicial diligence and fairness. Harold Burton had served as Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1935 until 1940. He then became a U.S. Senator from Ohio, serving from 1941 until he resigned following his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Justice Burton was commissioned a Supreme Court justice on September 22, 1945.
That autumn, seventy-one years ago, was only three years before the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs’ opponent this year, won their most recent World Series.
This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/. To subscribe, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.