Thank God for Al Gore inventing the Internet. Without it, we'd all have to watch Sixty Minutes waiting for that rare moment when (tick-tick-tick) something important happened on that show. Now, with the `Net, we can relax, play tennis or bounce the grandkids on our knees, and rest assured the World Wide Web will flag it if it counts.
Such an event occurred recently. CBS journo Scott Pelley did one of those puff-pieces that liberals do for aging liberals. Pelley interviewed retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Stevens retired at the end of the spring term. Not a minute too soon. It would be hard to find a single opinion of Stevens that showed fidelity to the original intent of the Founders in giving us a written Constitution that has inspired admiration around the world. So, Stevens escaped Washington. He was, as Winston Churchill once said of an opponent "unsung and unhung."
Well, he's unsung no more. Scott Pelley interviewed the retired but not retiring jurist about his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. He let Stevens tell an amazing story.
The 90-year old Stevens, as a boy, had been in the stands at Wrigley Field in the third game of the 1932 World Series. There, on October 1st, the great Babe Ruth pointed to the spot in the stands where he intended to hit the next pitch. Sure enough, with the count at 2-2, Cubs pitcher Charlie Root fired one in. The Pride of the Yankees, Ruth hit the ball right to that spot he had pointed to.
For decades, people have questioned that legend. Could it really be so? It seems too good to be true. But now, the controversy is over. Justice John Paul Stevens was there and he rendered his ruling on Sixty Minutes.
Stevens: "He took the bat in his right hand and pointed it right at the center field stands and then, of course, the next pitch he hit a home run to center field. There's no doubt about the fact that he did point before he hit the ball."
Pelley: "So the called shot actually happened?"
Stevens: "There's no doubt about that."
Pelley: "That's your ruling?"
Stevens: "That's my ruling."
Pelley: "Case closed."
Stevens: "That's one ruling I will not be reversed on."
I've always loved the story of "the Called Shot," not just because it's a great American sports legend.
The Called Shot says something not just about a New York Yankee, but about American Yankees, about our ingenuity, persistence, and pluck.
We had another Called Shot in 1961. President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress on May 25th. He pledged the United States would go to the Moon-before the decade was out. It was, like Babe Ruth's pointing, an incredibly bold, confident gesture. Unlike Babe Ruth, President Kennedy did not live to see the result of his Called Shot, but on the night a man first set foot on the Moon, someone put flowers on President Kennedy's grave at Arlington with this message: "The Eagle Has Landed."
Again, we had the thrill of seeing a third Called Shot during what TIME Magazine once called the American Century. On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin Wall. He issued a challenge to the Soviets, whose hideous and brutal wall was a monument to man's inhumanity to man.
It was a time when virtually all liberal journalists saw Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev as the true hope for the future, the real man of peace.
But Ronald Reagan, like Babe Ruth of old, challenged their presumptions. Resisting all the professionals in the U.S. State Department, Reagan boldly said:
We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Two-and-a-half years later, the Wall did come down. Gorbachev lacked the will to keep it up with bayonets and barbed wire.
Three Called Shots in America's Century. We can thank God for them all.
I'm even grateful to John Paul Stevens for clearing up all doubt about the first, great one. Now, I plan to work into this new American Century to correct the errors of John Paul Stevens about life, marriage, and religious liberty. At least I can be grateful for one day when John Paul Stevens got it right.