Opening Statements

Batter Up

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Courtesy of The Green Bag

At his senate confirmation hearing five years ago, chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. compared a Supreme Court justice’s role to that of a baseball umpire.

Not so to Ross Davies, who fancies the high court nine as the starting lineup for his Supreme Court Sluggers team.

Davies is editor-in-chief of The Green Bag, the witty legal quarterly he publishes in association with George Mason University’s law school in Arlington, Va. And this month he’s set to issue a baseball trading card featuring Justice John Paul Stevens in full baseball pose.

The first card, issued last fall, pictured Roberts as a pitcher and was drawn by artist Alec Spangler. It was based on the famous card of Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown of the 1900s Cubs.

But don’t try to find these cards in a packet of Topps trading cards. Like other Green Bag swag, they are only available to subscribers.

The Stevens card features the nearly 90-year-old justice crouched in catcher’s gear. On the flip side of the card are his judicial stats.

Artist John A. Sargent III drew the Stevens card, basing it on the famous playing card of Stevens’ hero, Chicago Cub Gabby Hartnett, who had his heyday in the 1930s. The background includes an homage to baseball legend Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,” who famously called his own homer when Hartnett was behind the plate.

Davies and Sargent came up with the baseball card idea a couple of years ago during a Cleveland Indians game, while watching the Tribe get trounced as they sat in the nosebleed section of the stadium. The pair are childhood friends and started talking about doing the cards, aiming to replicate the design of the 19th century. “Baseball cards from that period are startlingly beautiful,” Sargent says.

Hear the interview with Ross Davies and John Sargent III.

The cards require “someone who can combine the wit and edge of Thomas Nast with the artistry of John Singleton Copley,” adds Davies.

The cards are just the latest of Davies’ creations. His most valuable players are the Supreme Court bobblehead dolls. He began creating those in 2003, starting with then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and going down the seniority line, with the most recent addition being Justice David H. Souter. The dolls have become so coveted that they must be picked up in person.

Davies calls the bobbleheads “pop art,” but the beauty is in the details. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s doll featured the exact kind of polled Hereford cow that she grew up with in Arizona. “It took five drafts to get that.”

Davies, also a George Mason law prof, started The Green Bag in 1997 with some colleagues from the University of Chicago law school. Its name comes from the bag that lawyers once carried, and it describes itself with a subtitle: An Entertaining Journal of the Law.

What can we expect next from Davies and The Green Bag? Another card? One more bobblehead?

“Oh, we’ll do both. It’s too much fun. … This is probably going to be a lifetime project. I’m looking forward to it.”

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