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Kenesaw Mountain Landis

Born: 20-Nov-1866
Birthplace: Millville, OH
Died: 25-Nov-1944
Location of death: Chicago, IL
Cause of death: Respiratory failure
Remains: Cremated, Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago, IL

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Baseball, Administrator
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: First Commissioner of Baseball

After serving as personal assistant to Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham -- his father's commanding officer in the Army -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis worked as a corporate lawyer for several years. Appointed a federal judge by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, he became known for courtroom theatrics and unorthodox rulings. In perhaps his most famous court case, he presided over the anti-trust case against John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, and issued a $29M fine -- the largest verdict in US history, at the time -- against the company for price-fixing (the fine was overturned on appeal). In 1915 he presided over the upstart Federal League's lawsuit against the established American and National baseball leagues, but delayed his verdict for eleven months, during which time the Federal League folded. He later rendered harsh sentences against several Americans charged with sedition for opposition to World War I.

After eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 World Series, Landis was asked to assume the newly-created post of Commissioner of Baseball. He demanded absolute authority, a $50,000 annual salary, and had it written into his contract that he could not be fired, fined, or even criticized by the teams' owners. His first official act was to ban from baseball the eight "Black Sox" players, including the Sox' star Shoeless Joe Jackson -- though all eight had already been prosecuted and found not guilty. Landis later issued lifetime bans against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ray Fisher when he quit in a salary dispute and took a job as a college coach, Philadelphia Phillies owner William Drought Cox for gambling on baseball, New York Giants outfielder Benny Kauff after he was acquitted on charges of auto theft, and numerous other players. He opposed baseball's "reserve clause", and ordered almost 200 players released from their contracts, allowing them to sign with other teams, after ruling that their careers had been "unfairly stymied" by the teams that held their contracts. When the Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to sign Negro League star Josh Gibson, Landis informed the Pirates that "As long as I'm the Commissioner of Baseball, niggers will never play in the major leagues."

He was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame two weeks after his death, in 1944. His father was a soldier for the North in the American Civil War, and Landis was named after the 1864 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (misspelling the mountain's name). Friends called him Kennie. Two of his brothers were US Congressmen, and his brother-in-law, James H. Eckels, was US Comptroller of the Currency. His son, Reed Gresham Landis, was a noted World War I flying ace, and two-time winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Father: Abraham Hoch Landis (physician, b. 14-Feb-1821, d. 9-Nov-1896)
Mother: Mary Kumler Landis (b. 27-Aug-1832, m. 17-Sep-1850, d. 26-Oct-1912)
Sister: Catherine Jeanette Landis (b. 15-Aug-1851, d. 23-Nov-1921)
Sister: Sarah Frances Landis (b. 28-Dec-1853, d. 12-Mar-1939)
Brother: Walter Kumler Landis (US Postmaster for Puerto Rico, b. 15-Apr-1856, d. 5-Nov-1919)
Brother: Charles Beary Landis (US Congressman, b. 9-Jul-1858, d. 24-Apr-1922)
Brother: John Howard Landis (physician, b. 10-Oct-1860, d. 23-Aug-1918)
Brother: Frederick Daniel Landis (US Congressman, b. 18-Aug-1872, d. 15-Nov-1934)
Wife: Winifred Reed Landis (m. 25-Jul-1895, two children)
Son: Reed Gresham Landis (military officer, b. 17-Jul-1896, d. 30-May-1975)
Daughter: Susanne Landis Phillips (b. 1898)

    High School: Logansport High School, Logansport, IN (dropped out, 1883)
    University: University of Cincinnati (attended)
    Law School: LLD, Northwestern University (1891)
    Teacher: Law, Northwestern University (1891-93, 95-1905)

    Baseball Hall of Fame 1944
    Major League Baseball Commissioner (1920-44)
    US District Judge Northern Illinois (1905-21)
    US State Department Personal assistant to Walter Q. Gresham (1893-95)
    American Bar Association
    German Ancestry

Author of books:
Segregation in Washington (1948)


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