One of the most powerful individuals in the history of the game, Kenesaw Mountain Landis left a lasting impression on baseball that could never be duplicated. A lifelong baseball fan, Landis first entered the history of the game as the federal judge who listened to the case against the reserve clause that came about because of the Federal League in 1915. Because the upstart league disbanded at the end of the season Landis never ruled on the case, but the owners remembered him when they decided to create the office of Commissioner in response to the Black Sox scandal. Landis took office in 1920 and immediately set about cleaning up the game. After banning the eight players involved in the fix, he ruled with an iron fist for twenty-four years, wiping out rowdyism and scandal. Unfortunately, he was also a driving force in the continuation of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” that barred blacks from playing in the Major Leagues.
One of the great ironies of Oak Woods Cemetery, the final resting place of Landis and Cap Anson (two of baseball’s most notorious racists), is that the bulk of the staff that maintains the cemetery is made up of African Americans.
November 23, 2010