Yesterday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) announced that group will remove the name of Kenesaw Mountain Landis from the American League and National League Most Valuable Player plaques presented each year to the MVP winners.. Landis has been honored with having the plaques bear his name since 1944, the year of his death. He didn’t do much: he only probably saved the National Pastime at its darkest hour.
It was Landis, a famously tough and uncorruptible federal judge, whom the baseball owners turned to in 1920 in the midst of the Black Sox scandal. The scandal involving the Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series in 1919 under the influence of bribes from gamblers to some key players, including star Shoeless Joe Jackson. Even though the eight accused players were acquitted in their trial, Landis, who remained a judge for two years while serving as Commissioner, banned them all from baseball, laying down a rule that participating in efforts to corrupt the game through gambling or having knowledge of other players doing so and not acting to stop it were grounds for permanent exile. Eighteen players in all, like the infamous Hal Chase, were banned by Landis, who remained commissioner for the rest of his life.
Landis had a memorable career as a judge before coming to baseball’s rescue: in 1907, he thrilled the man who appointed him, Teddy Roosevelt when he fined Standard Oil of Indiana more than $29 million (about $800 million in 2020) for violating federal laws forbidding rebates on railroad freight tariffs.
Why, then, is Landis suddenly the victim of metaphorical statue-toppling? That was a clue: in the wake of the George Floyd Freakout and The Great Stupid, the baseball writers, which are thoroughly infested with self-righteous and semi-ignorant would-be social justice warriors like this guy, blame Landis for not “doing more” to desegregate baseball before Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey finally did the trick, three years after Landis died. In other words, he’s being punished for not seeing clearly what everyone sees almost 80 years later, and not actively fighting for a cause that neither baseball nor American society may have been ready for.