Supreme Court Justice Trading Cards and Their Appurtenances

This article was written by Nick Vossbrink - John Racanelli

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2022 as part of SABR’s Baseball and the Supreme Court Project.

Trading cards have been produced depicting nearly every conceivable subject and judges are no exception.

In 1888 W. Duke, Sons & Co. (at one time the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States) issued a set of “Great Americans” cards that featured Oliver Wendell Holmes, among others.

1888 W. Duke, Sons & Co. Great Americans, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (no #).

This card portrays Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who would later write the opinion in Federal Baseball that notably afforded Major League Baseball a sanctioned monopoly. Justice Holmes would get his first verified card in the 1992 Starline Americana set — although the seminal Federal Baseball opinion is not included among his career highlights.

1992 Starline Americana, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (134)

The 1992 Americana set also included cards of seven of the justices who were involved in the Curt Flood decision: Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, Warren Burger, William Douglas, Thurgood Marshall, William Rehnquist, and Byron White. (Potter Stewart and Lewis Powell were not included.) 

1992 Starline Americana (L-R): Harry Blackmun (126), Thurgood Marshall (59), Warren Burger (171), Byron White (128).

Kids in 1960 and 1961 could find cards of Judge Kenesaw Landis, first Commissioner of Major League Baseball, alongside Ted Williams and a slate of retired Hall of Famers in packs of Fleer “Baseball Greats.” The backs of Landis’s cards touted his role in presiding over the initial antitrust case brought by the Federal League against the National and American Leagues. (Landis ultimately dismissed the case after the parties reached a settlement dubbed the “Cincinnati Peace Agreement.”)   

(Top): 1960 Fleer Judge Landis (64); (bottom): 1961 Fleer Judge Landis (53).

In 2010 the Upper Deck Company produced a “first pitch” card featuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who some credit with saving baseball in 1995 while she was sitting in the Southern District of New York. Her decision in Silverman granted a temporary injunction that directed Major League Baseball, inter alia, to restore the terms and conditions of employment provided under the expired collective bargaining agreement and bargain in good faith.

2010 Upper Deck Season Biography, Sonia Sotomayor (SB-191)

Topps’s interest in chronicling historic firsts in its inserts sets means that cards of both Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Connor have been available inside packs of baseball cards. O’Connor was available as part of the 2015 Topps Baseball History insert set with a card commemorating her becoming the first female Justice on the same day that Steve Carlton broke the NL strikeout record. Marshall meanwhile was part of the 2016 Heritage News Flashbacks which looked at noteworthy events in 1967, one of which was his becoming the first African American Justice.

Even today, trading cards are produced of Supreme Court Justices, such as these cards sold by For Counsel, which even feature update cards marking the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett.

John Jay, Amy Coney Barrett and Ruth Bader Ginsberg photos courtesy of forcounsel.com.

Several other cards over the years have included players with legal-sounding names and depicted Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (nicknamed “The Judge”) presiding over a quasi-judicial kangaroo court matter in the Orioles’ clubhouse.

(L-R): 1933 Goudey, Joe Judge (155); 1990 Fleer, David Justice (586); 2019 Topps, Frank Robinson SP (529); 2017 Choice Pawtucket Red Sox, Ryan Court (7).

 

Authors’ Note

Special thanks to SABR Baseball Cards Committee Co-Chair Jason Schwartz for his invaluable reviewing and editing assistance.

 

Sources

Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Comm., 880 F. Supp. 246 (SDNY 1995).

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