Getty Images / Mark Wilson
Justice John Paul Stevens at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. The 88-year-old Justice just hired staff, giving the impression that he's sticking around the Supreme Court for a while.
Retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens donned a Chicago Cubs warmup jacket and reminisced about watching Babe Ruth in Wrigley Field, but avoided even a hint of controversy Monday as he addressed some cheering fans of his own in Illinois.
The 90-year-old Stevens, who plans to leave the court after it wraps up its work for the summer, spoke briefly during an annual gathering of Chicago's legal community.
The liberal justice who wrote a fiery dissent in Bush v. Gore -- the case that helped seal the 2000 presidential election for Republican George W. Bush -- didn't talk about any of the controversies the court has addressed since he was appointed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975.
Instead, he reminisced about how he was on hand at the 1932 World Series when Ruth pointed to the center field bleachers of the Chicago ballpark as if he planned to hit a home run there, then did exactly that.
"I was in fact a witness to the 'call your shot' home run by Babe Ruth," the Chicago native said.
Stevens, the second oldest justice ever to serve on the nation's highest court, basked in the attention from fellow judges and lawyers at the annual meeting of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Council of the 7th Circuit.
The 7th Circuit is the court that hears appeals from federal District Courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Stevens himself once sat on the 7th Circuit bench.
The Cubs jacket was a gift from the admiring attorneys. Stevens put it on and proudly showed it off.
No fewer than three potential candidates to fill Stevens' seat attended the event, including U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan. The solicitor general is the federal government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court.
Kagan was generous in her praise for Stevens, saying he was he was ``recognized as a person of sterling integrity and unimpeachable honesty.''
"Colleagues see him as a truth seeker," she said, adding that "the country was fortunate beyond measure" to have him on its highest court.
Kagan was billed as the principal speaker but kept her remarks short and uncontroversial.
Sitting nearby were Judge Diane Wood and Judge Ann Claire Williams, both members of the 7th Circuit who also have been mentioned as possible contenders to fill Stevens' seat.