08
Nov
10

Kenesaw Mountain Landis ~ Federal Judge

Baseball First Commissioner

Landis was born on November 20, 1866, Millville, Ohio and died November 25, 1944, in Chicago.  He was a federal judge and first commissioner of baseball who, as commissioner, was noted for his uncompromising measures against persons guilty of dishonesty or other conduct he regarded as damaging to baseball.

He was named after a mountain near Atlanta, Ga., where his father, a Federal soldier, was wounded during the Civil War.  Landis attended the University of Cincinnati and in 1891 was graduated from the Union College of Law, Chicago, where he practiced law.  In March 1905, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt appointed Landis U.S. district judge for the northern district of Illinois.  Two years later, Landis won nationwide fame by fining the Standard Oil Company more than $29,000,000 for granting unlawful freight rebates. (The decision was reversed on appeal.)  during World War I he presided at sedition trials of Socialist and labor leaders.

In 1915 the Federal Leagues’, a “third major league” operating outside the structure of organized professional baseball, brought suit against the American and National leagues.  The case came before Landis, who neither granted nor denied the injunction that was requested by withheld his decision until the Federal League had disbanded on terms satisfactory to all three leagues.  Following the “Black Sox” baseball scandal of the 1919 World Series, Landis was proposed for the office of commissioner.  Replacing the three-man National Baseball Commission, which had failed to deal adequately with the “Black Sox” problem, Landis took office in January 1920

Although disliked and even feared by some for his autocratic methods and patriarchal sternness, the commissioner held office until his death, and one of his decisions ever was reversed.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December 1944.

Reference:  The New Encyclopedia Britannica (Micropaedia) 

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