Baseball’s First Commissioner
NOVEMBER 12, 1920
– Major League baseball owners gave in to Federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis on this date in 1920 and named him the game’s first Commissioner.
With the public relations nightmare of the 1919 Black Sox scandal coming to light owners had been pursuing a more independent 3-member commission to rule the game. A favorite of the owners to be one of the commissioners was Landis, but he would only serve if he was sole Commissioner. So that’s how it came to be. Baseball historian Leonard Koppett also suspects Landis was named commissioner as payback for bailing out major league baseball when he presided over an antitrust lawsuit in 1915.
Kennesaw Mountain Landis
Judge Landis negotiated a pretty good deal to help major league baseball “come clean.” He got an annual salary of $50,000 for seven years. He would also remain on the federal bench, but his $7,500 judge salary would be deducted from his baseball salary.
Landis is most remembered for banning for life eight members of the Chicago White Sox for throwing the 1919 World Series. A jury found the players not guilty of throwing the series, partly because confessions they had made were lost. Judge Landis didn’t care about the acquittals. His view was; they confessed to accepting bribes, so they were banned for life.
Kennesaw Mountain Landis held the post for 24 years – the longest of any baseball commissioner.
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball,
by Leonard Koppett, 2004, Carroll & Graf Publishers