Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Justice Stevens (ret.) On Growing Up a Chicago Cubs Fan

...Stevens first visited Wrigley Field as a nine-year-old during the 1929 World Series pitting the Cubs against the Philadelphia Athletics.

“I had listened to the Cubs games all summer on the radio,” Stevens said. “There was Hal Totten for WMAQ, and Pat Flanagan for WBBM. He broadcast the out-of-town games, pretending he was an actual spectator.”

A young Ronald Reagan took a similar approach as a broadcaster in Iowa, as it was common during that era for announcers to take play-by-play developments off a ticker tape and relate them as if they were present.

At that first game of the 1929 series, Stevens and his father sat behind home plate, where the future justice was thrilled to see Cubs greats such as Hack Wilson and Charlie Grimm. And when Philadelphia manager Connie Mack started a veteran pitcher, Howard Ehmke, instead of his younger, fastball aces, Stevens thought the Cubs would have an easy game. Instead, Ehmke struck out 13 straight Cubs and the A’s won the game, 3-1.

“That was a tragedy for a young fan,” Stevens said. (It should really go without saying that the Cubs lost that series, four games to one.)

Stevens never tires of discussing his most famous brush with baseball—the 1932 World Series between the Cubs and the New York Yankees, when Yankees great Babe Ruth hit his much-debated “called shot.” The short version is that during the fifth inning of Game 3, Ruth pointed to center field, then hit the next pitch out of the park.

As Stevens has explained, Ruth was jawing with a pitcher in the Cubs dugout, Guy Bush, evidently over the Cubs’ decision not to give a full World Series bonus share to Mark Koenig, a former Yankee teammate of Ruth’s who was with the Cubs in 1932. Stevens once told an interviewer that he clearly remembered Ruth and Bush engaging in a “colloquy” on the issue (“colloquy” not being a common term for trash talking on the baseball diamond).

Describing the events to me, Stevens said, “You probably remember, they were in an argument as to whether Mark Koenig was entitled to a full share for the World Series.” (I’m pretty sure he meant that I recall the historical accounts, not that I was also there in 1932.)

“What was Ruth’s motive, no one knows for sure,” said Stevens, who was a 12-year-old sitting behind the Cubs dugout on the third-base line during that game. “He did point at the scoreboard, and then hit the ball out of the park the next pitch. But I think he was in an argument with Guy Bush at the time. And I didn’t know if he wanted to hit the pitch there or he wanted to hit Guy Bush.”

Stevens kept a scorecard from that 1932 game at Wrigley Field in his chambers, among other Cubs memorabilia. He was still serving in the U.S. Navy as a codebreaker in 1945 when the Cubs last appeared in a World Series.

Read the rest here.

I recall watching a show on Prohibition where Justice Stevens was being interviewed and he told some very colorful stories about growing up in Chicago during the Roaring 20's and the Depression.

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