On Friday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) announced that the group has voted to remove the name of Kenesaw Mountain Landis from the American League and National League Most Valuable Player plaques it presents each year. The name of Landis, whose powerful reign as the first commissioner of the sport came about in large measure because of the Black Sox scandal, has adorned the plaques since 1944, the year of his death.
BBWAA president Paul Sullivan released the following statement after the vote, which was 89 percent in favor of removal:
"This past summer, two Most Valuable Player award winners, Barry Larkin and Terry Pendleton, spoke of their discomfort with the name of Kenesaw Mountain Landis attached to their awards. Landis, baseball's first commissioner, served from 1920-44 and notably failed to integrate the game during his tenure. A motion to remove Landis' name from the MVP award was made in July by longtime member Ken Rosenthal, and after an online discussion of the issue the BBWAA membership voted this week to remove the name, beginning in 2020. Whether the award will be renamed has been tabled until after the 2020 season."
It wasn't until three years after Landis' death that Jackie Robinson broke that color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Not surprisingly, MLB's official historian in June told the Associated Press of "documented racism" during Landis' tenure, which explains the movement to remove Landis' name from the plaques.
As Sullivan notes in his statement, it has not yet been determined whether the awards will be renamed and if they are whose name will replace Landis'. One oft-floated possibility is Frank Robinson, the Hall of Fame slugger who remains the only player to win the MVP award in both the NL (1961) and AL (1966). The 2020 awards, however, will be nameless.