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Post A Gift for Justice Stevens
Created by John Eipper on 07/24/19 3:55 AM

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A Gift for Justice Stevens (Patrick Mears, Germany, 07/24/19 3:55 am)

David Duggan's recent post on the passing of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens brought back a fond memory of Justice Stevens from September 29, 2011, when he visited Grand Rapids, Michigan to give the William E. Simon Lecture sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

At the time, I was one of the founding trustees of The Historical Society of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan and the first Editor of the Society's journal, entitled The Stereoscope. A few months before Justice Stevens' speech on September 29th, we at the Society had been advised that our organization (along with a number of others) were invited to submit proposals for presentations to be made to Justice Stevens in advance of his speech and so we addressed this matter at our next trustees' meeting.

We trustees unanimously agreed to offer to make such a presentation, but we were uncertain as to what we could present to someone like Justice Stevens, so as to make a favorable impression on him and the anticipated large audience. Some proposals to offer him something connected with the Supreme Court or the law in general, were discussed, but these did not generate much enthusiasm. Then I fortunately remembered what David mentions in his recent post--that Stevens had witnessed Babe Ruth's "called shot" in Game 3 of the 1932 Yankees-Cubs World Series at Wrigley Field. In that game, the Cub bench had been mercilessly riding the Sultan of Swat, calling him "fat," "over-the-hill" along with nastier and unprintable remarks. For their part, the Yankees were seething at the decision by the Cubs players made just before the Series began not to award their former teammate, Mark Koenig, a full-player's share of the Cubs' Series gate receipts. Baseball lore has it that the Cubs' pitcher, Charley Root, began to shout obscene remarks at Ruth when he stepped up to the plate in the fifth inning. Root pitched two quick strikes to Ruth and, just prior to the next pitch, the Bambino pointed with his bat to Wrigley's center-field bleachers and promptly slammed the ball over the head of the Cubs' center fielder, Johnny Moore, for a home run. The Yankees won that game and the next, sweeping the Cubs four games to zero.

While sitting in our meeting listening to this discussion about what to offer Justice Stevens, I remembered that I had at home the autographs of Mark Koenig, Charley Root and Johnny Moore, which I had collected by writing to these former players as a youngster in the early 1960s. I then made the proposal to my fellow trustees that we could offer a unique gift to Justice Stevens--a glass-framed collage containing these autographs, reproductions of baseball cards of Koenig, Ruth, et al. from the early 1930s that I also possessed, copies of contemporary newspaper articles reporting on this game, and a few other Cubs' nicknacks that I had collected from watching Cubs' games at Wrigley over the years and also at the first "Cubs Convention" held in downtown Chicago between baseball seasons. My suggestion was quickly and enthusiastically adopted, and I took the next step of gathering these items together and delivering them to a local art dealer, who arranged and displayed them within the glass frame with great style. Then, I delivered the final product to the Gerald R. Ford Foundation for their consideration and also that of Justice Stevens.

A few days before Justice Stevens' speech, we received notice that our honored guest had approved our proposed gift and that we were the only organization to be selected. So on the day of the speech, two of my fellow trustees and I attended this event and, right on cue, we were asked to come up to the podium and present our offering. Justice Stevens was extremely gracious and very pleased to have received "something out of the ordinary" and we pointed out to him the various items in the framed collage and described how the idea of the presentation came to us. The following is a link to the issue of the Stereoscope that contains a brief story about this event along with photographs of the presentation itself.


JE comments:  Scroll down to p. 20 of the Stereoscope for the Stevens article, including photos of our own Pat Mears with the justice (bow-tied even in retirement).  A brilliant gift, Pat!  I assume JPS was a life-long Cubs fan.  He lived a charmed life, as David Duggan wrote, and here's one additional blessing: His Honor lived long enough to see the Cubs' 2016 championship, after a (very long) lifetime of frustration.

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