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.
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.
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.)
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.”)
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.
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.
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.
Special thanks to SABR Baseball Cards Committee Co-Chair Jason Schwartz for his invaluable reviewing and editing assistance.
Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Comm., 880 F. Supp. 246 (SDNY 1995).