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Happy Anniversary: MLB names Judge Landis first commissioner

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Judge Landis, conversing with Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.
Judge Landis, conversing with Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. (Getty Images)

Once upon a time, Major League Baseball did not have a commissioner. But then the 1919 Black Sox scandal stained the sport and it became clear there was a strong need for a top administrative figure. The owners turned to U.S. district judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Landis was elected on Nov. 12, 1920, or some 93 years ago to the day from Tuesday.

One of Landis' first orders of business was to ban Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson*, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver** and Lefty Williams for life from baseball due to having taken money from gamblers to throw the World Series.

*Jackson's involvement has long been under question.
**Weaver actually didn't take money, but knew about the fix and didn't turn in the offenders, so he was banned on this basis.

Gambling had been a growing problem in baseball for upwards of a decade and with this one decision, Landis effectively worked toward ending the problem, which only slightly lingered before pretty much going away under Landis' watch.

Under Landis, the minor-league farm system was developed as well. Prior to his tenure, the minor leagues were essentially independant leagues.

Landis would serve as commissioner of baseball until his death on Nov. 25, 1944. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1946 after being elected in 1944 by the Old Timers Committee.

Since Landis, here's a list of MLB commissioners:

•A.B. "Happy" Chandler, 1945-51

Ford Christopher Frick, 1951-65

•General William "Spike" Eckert, 1965-68

Bowie Kent Kuhn, 1969-84

Peter Victor Ueberroth, 1984-88

•A. Bartlett Giamatti, 1988-89

•Francis "Fay" Vincent, 1989-92

Allan H. "Bud" Selig, 1998-present (Selig was "acting commissioner" from 1992-98)

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