Kenesaw Mountain Landis


Kenesaw Mountain Landis : biography

November 20, 1866 – November 25, 1944

World Series and All-Star Game; other innovations

Landis took full jurisdiction over the World Series, as a contest between representatives of the two major leagues. Landis was blamed when the umpires called a game on account of darkness with the score tied during the 1922 World Series, even though there was still light. Landis decided that such decisions in future would be made by himself, moved forward the starting time of World Series games in future years, and announced that proceeds from the tied game would be donated to charity. In the 1932 World Series, Landis ordered that tickets for Game One at Yankee Stadium only be sold as part of strips, forcing fans to purchase tickets for all Yankee home games during that Series. Bad weather and the poor economy resulted in a half-filled stadium, and Landis allowed individual game sales for Game Two. During the 1933 World Series, he instituted a rule that only he could throw a player out of a World Series game, a rule which followed the ejection of Washington Senator Heinie Manush by umpire Charley Moran. The following year, with the visiting Cardinals ahead of the Detroit Tigers, 9–0 in Game Seven, he removed Cardinal Joe Medwick from the game for his own safety when Medwick, the left fielder, was pelted with fruit by Tiger fans after Medwick had been involved in a fight with one of the Tigers. Spink notes that Landis would most likely not have done so were the game within reach of the Tigers. In the 1938 World Series, umpire Moran was hit by a wild throw and suffered facial injuries. He was able to continue, but the incident caused Landis to order that World Series games and All-Star Games be played with six umpires.

The All-Star Game began in 1933; Landis had been a strong supporter of the proposal for such a contest, and after the first game remarked, "That’s a grand show, and it should be continued." He never missed an All-Star Game in his lifetime; his final public appearance was at the 1944 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

In 1928, National League ball clubs proposed an innovation whereby each team’s pitcher, usually the weakest hitter in the lineup, would not bat, but be replaced for the purposes of batting and base-running by a tenth player. There were expectations that at the interleague meetings that year, the National League teams would vote for it, and the American League teams against it, leaving Landis to cast the deciding vote. In the event, the proposal was withdrawn, and Landis did not disclose how he would have voted on this early version of the "designated hitter" rule.

Landis disliked the innovation of "night baseball", played in the evening with the aid of artificial light, and sought to discourage teams from it. Despite this, he attended the first successful minor league night game, in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1930. When major league night baseball began in the late 1930s, Landis got the owners to restrict the number of such games. During World War II, many restrictions on night baseball were reduced, with the Washington Senators permitted to play all their home games (except those on Sundays and holidays) at night.

World War II, death, and legacy

With the entry of the United States into World War II in late 1941, Landis wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, inquiring as to the wartime status of baseball. The President responded urging Landis to keep baseball open, foreseeing that even those fully engaged in war work would benefit from inexpensive diversions such as attending baseball games. Many major leaguers enlisted or were drafted; even so Landis repeatedly stated, "We’ll play as long as we can put nine men on the field." Although many of the teams practiced at their normal spring training sites in 1942, beginning the following year they were required to train near their home cities or in the Northeast. Landis was as virulently opposed to the Axis Powers as he had been towards the Kaiser, writing that peace would not be possible until "about fifteen thousand little Hitler, Himmlers and Hirohitos" were killed.