The late John Paul Stevens was there when Babe Ruth did, or did not, call his shot in the 1932 World Series.


John Paul Stevens has died, and coverage of his passing is rightly focused on his Supreme Court tenure. But the drop-dead incredible thing about Stevens — as sportswriter Dave Zirin pointed out immediately upon hearing about Stevens’ death — is that he almost certainly was the last living witness to Babe Ruth’s alleged called shot in 1932.

It boggles the mind of a baseball fan.

Stevens lived long enough to witness the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series and ending a championship drought that predated him by more than a decade. He said he experienced October anguish up close as a child: in 1929, when he attended Game 1 of that Fall Classic at Wrigley Field, and in 1932, when he was on hand for Game 3, aka the day Babe Ruth called his shot. The Cubs lost both games. He recounted those visits in this Chicago Tribune article.

Speaking of which, I missed news of the death in March of Ruth’s last surviving daughter. Ironically, her married name was Stevens.

Back to Justice Stevens, and Charlie Pierce calls this shot.

John Paul Stevens Saw What Was Coming, by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire)

The retired Supreme Court Justice is dead at 99 years old.

It can be argued, and convincingly, too, that things began to go sideways in this country on December 12, 2000, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Bush v. Gore, which handed the presidency to George W. Bush. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens saw it coming.

What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

This part sounds important, too.

He was a Republican judge, appointed by an unelected Republican president, who lived long enough and served long enough to become the leader of what became the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. How much did things change over his 35 years on the Supreme Court? Appearing with Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, longtime Supreme Court chronicler Linda Greenhouse pointed out that Stevens was the first Supreme Court justice confirmed after Roe v. Wade was decided and, not only were his confirmation hearings not televised, but Stevens was not asked a single question about abortion.