What do Hunter Wendelstedt (a major-league baseball umpire) and Supreme Court Justice William R. Day (term in office: 1903-1922) have in common? You can find out by playing the on-line game, Oyez Baseball. As you play, you score runs—or strike out—by correctly or incorrectly identifying a Supreme Court justice whose record or role on the Court parallels a major-league baseball player’s career.
The aim of the game is to help people learn about the Supreme Court by capitalizing on our national obsession with baseball. According to the game’s originators, there are many parallels.
On the Supreme Court, greatness or mediocrity derives from a justice’s accomplishments or lack thereof. The same is true for ballplayers. The Court vests its nine occupants with awesome responsibility. Some justices, like some players, are blessed with skills that not only generate tremendous personal achievements, but can transform their institutions, and sometimes even American culture. Others are quickly forgettable, while most toil somewhere in between. The qualities that make some justices great and others mediocre are difficult to explain fully and justify to those unversed in the Court’s work. But most everyone understands baseball-and baseball may be the best way to reveal greatness or mediocrity. Hence, Oyez® Baseball.
The Law-Baseball Quiz” debuted in the New York Times on April 4, 1979. Created by law professor Robert M. Cover, it compared baseball players and Supreme Court Justices. Unlike Eddie Gaedel, the midget in baseball’s most publicized stunt, the Quiz has delighted and stumped enthusiasts on many occasions since it first appeared.
Oyez Baseball is an enlarged version of Professor Cover’s initial vision. We have simply burnished the metaphor that Professor Cover summoned to describe baseball personalities and justices.
Try it. You may not come away remembering anything about the Supreme Court justices in the quiz, but it’s a delightfully clever juxtaposition.
Postscript: Associate Justice Day reportedly asked his clerk for “regular updates,” during the bench hearing of Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. v. United States, about the final game of the 1912 World Series.