View from bench: Former Supreme Court justice roots for Cubs
A lot of Chicago Cubs fans have waited a long time to see them win the championship. In this case, it feels like forever.
How many people can say they went to the very first World Series game at Wrigley Field?
That was in 1929, and future Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was there. He was in the box seats behind third base a few Octobers later, too, and saw Babe Ruth call his shot.
“Very definitely,” Stevens told The Associated Press this week by phone from Florida. “He pointed his bat.”
Now, at 96 and outdating the ivy on the outfield walls at the cherished ballpark, Stevens planned to be at Game 4 Saturday night when his Cubs host the Cleveland Indians.
And he had a playful wish. Well, beyond the obvious.
Tossing out a ball from the mound at Wrigley, as he did in 2005. Only this time, at the World Series.
“I’d love to,” the veteran right-hander said. “I’d like to see if I can throw it over the plate again.”
Stevens said he was still on that bench, but added with a bright tone, “I suppose there’s a couple days left.”
The Cubs won 5-1 Wednesday night in Cleveland to tie things at one game apiece. The Series shifts to the city where Stevens grew up for Game 3 Friday night.
Not since 1908 have the Cubs won the World Series. They were led by the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double play combination that became famed in verse — the same year, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written.
Born in 1920, Stevens said he has no recollection from his boyhood days of older friends and family members talking about that championship club.
Of the some 7.4 billion people on the planet, no telling for sure if there’s anyone around who would recall those Cubs.
“They are alive, but do they remember?” said Robert Young, a senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records. “I think there’s probably a few.”
Young estimates there are 4,000 people around the globe who were alive then, most of them outside the United States.
“It’s amazing to me the Cubs’ franchise lasted that long without winning,” he added.
Before the World Series opener, Stevens had already formed his opinion on the outcome.
“I think the only question is whether it will be four straight or whether it will take five games for us to win it in Chicago,” he said.
And even though the Indians and their crowd have been waiting since 1948 for a crown, it’s been much longer on the North Side of Chicago.
“The Cubs are entitled to win in this one, I think,” he said.
Justice for the Cubs, so to speak.
Stevens served on the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010 and in his chambers he had an autographed photo of Cubs great Ernie Banks and a jersey of Chicago pitcher Mark Prior.
Stevens also had a framed scorecard from the 1932 game when Ruth pointed. It was a gift long ago from a fellow law clerk, who knew Stevens had seen the Bambino that afternoon as a 12-year-old.
As a kid, he followed the Cubs in the fledging days of radio. With more modern devices, Stevens rooted for them as often as he could this season.
The Cubs began their drive to end the championship drought this year at spring training in the Phoenix suburbs — in 1908, Arizona wasn’t even a state.
They led the majors with 103 wins, but Stevens wasn’t about to celebrate early. After so many years of hope and so little success, this is their first World Series trip since 1945.
“It’s hard to acknowledge, but it happened,” he said.
Just like Stevens imagined, sort of. Shortly before opening day, he told the AP he was anticipating big things from this new, talented bunch of Cubs.
“I don’t think it’s a question of whether they’ll win a championship,” he said then. “It’s whether I’ll still be here to see it.”