Kenesaw Mountain Landis


Kenesaw Mountain Landis : biography

November 20, 1866 – November 25, 1944

Landis retained a firm hold on baseball despite his advancing years and, in 1943, banned Phillies owner William D. Cox from baseball for betting on his own team. In 1927, Landis’s stance regarding gambling had been codified in the rules of baseball: "Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor had a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible." Cox was required to sell his stake in the Phillies.

In early October 1944, Landis checked into St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, where his wife Winifred had been hospitalized, with a severe cold. While in the hospital, he had a heart attack, causing him to miss the World Series for the first time in his commissionership. He remained fully alert, and as usual signed the World Series share checks to players. His contract was due to expire in January 1946; on November 17, 1944, baseball’s owners voted him another seven-year term. However, on November 25, he died with his family about him, five days after his 78th birthday. His longtime assistant, Leslie O’Connor, wept as he read the announcement for the press.

Two weeks after his death, Landis was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a special committee vote. The Baseball Writers Association of America renamed its Most Valuable Player Awards after Landis.

American League President Will Harridge said of Landis, "He was a wonderful man. His great qualities and downright simplicity impressed themselves deeply on all who knew him." Pietrusza suggests that the legend on Landis’s Hall of Fame plaque is his true legacy: "His integrity and leadership established baseball in the esteem, respect, and affection of the American people." Pietrusza notes that Landis was hired by the baseball owners to clean up the sport, and "no one could deny Kenesaw Mountain Landis had accomplished what he had been hired to do". According to his first biographer, Spink,

[Landis] may have been arbitrary, self-willed and even unfair, but he ‘called ’em as he saw ’em’ and he turned over to his successor and the future a game cleansed of the nasty spots which followed World War I. Kenesaw Mountain Landis put the fear of God into weak characters who might otherwise have been inclined to violate their trust. And for that, I, as a lifelong lover of baseball, am eternally grateful.