Tag Archives: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

JAN 13th IN BASEBALL HISTORY – BUCK WEAVER PLEADS WITH COMMISSIONER LANDIS

JANUARY 13, 1958 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS The New York Times reported on this date in 1958 that disgraced Chicago White Sox third baseman Buck Weaver pleaded with the Commissioner who banned him to reconsider. Weaver and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis met informally a week earlier, but it was not publicly disclosed.

Weaver had been kicked out of major league baseball for life for being part of a conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series. Despite he and seven other players being acquitted of taking bribes from gamblers (mainly because their confessions were mysteriously lost), baseball banned them anyway for associating with gamblers. The evidence was that Weaver refused to take part in the plan but never spoke up about it either.

Weaver hit .324 in the series and played errorless third base, which lent credence to his declaration that he wasn’t involved, but Commissioner Landis wouldn’t budge.

This was the first of several pleas by George “Buck” Weaver during his lifetime to get his named cleared. He died in 1956 at age 65, his pleas going unanswered.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, January 14, 1922
1919 World Series stats, box scores

JAN 5 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DID MLB GET PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT?

JANUARY 5, 1915 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Did the National and American Leagues get preferential treatment? A short-lived 3rd major league sued the National and American Leagues on this date in 1915. The Federal League claimed the NL and AL created an illegal monopoly, which made it difficult for the upstart league to survive. Although the Federal League did not get a verdict in its favor, the effects of its lawsuit are felt more than 100 years later.

The lawsuit was presided over by Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. As Leonard Koppett writes in Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, Landis was known for his hard line against monopolies. That’s not how things worked out in this situation.

The case never went to trial. Landis helped bring about a settlement whereby the American and National Leagues bought-out some of the Federal League owners who were heavy in debt. A couple Federal League owners became owners of American and National League teams.

The bottom line is the Federal League lawsuit went away. The American and National League owners got their way. A few years later major league baseball hired its first commissioner – Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

The Federal League was the last major attempt at a 3rd major league. It was put together by a group of businessmen in 1913 hoping to cash in on the popularity of baseball. The league competed against the National and American Leagues in 1914 and 1915. It signed some established stars and had decent attendance, but the established major leagues felt threatened and began to match salaries and tie the Federal League up in court.

The Federal League won the lawsuits, but the costs became a burden. Owners went heavy into debt, so FL owners tried to turn the tables on the American and National Leagues by filing the lawsuit mentioned above.

There is an interesting and lasting postscript to this story. One of the Federal League teams neither bought out nor absorbed by the National and American Leagues was the Baltimore Terrapins, so they filed their own lawsuit against the major leagues. The result was a 1922 Supreme Court decision saying Major League Baseball was primarily entertainment and therefore except from the Sherman Antitrust Act. The exception remains basically intact today, though it’s been eroded somewhat by free-agency.

And one of the most famous venues in sports owes its birth to the long-deceased league. The ballpark now known as Wrigley Field was initially built for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.

Back to the original question; did the National and American Leagues get preferential treatment? It appears so.

Federal League Teams
Baltimore Terrapins
Brooklyn Tip-Tops
Buffalo Blues
Chicago Whales
Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914 only)
Newark Peppers (1915 only)
Kansas City Packers
Pittsburgh Rebels
St. Louis Terriers

Contributing sources:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball , by Leonard Koppett
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Sherman Antitrust Act
The Chicago Whales & Weeghman Park

DEC 22 IN BASEBALL HISTORY-NL & AL FLEX MUSCLES

DECEMBER 22, 1915 | CINCINNATI, OHIO – The upstart Federal League‘s attempt at being a third major league came to an end on this date in 1915. The official word was National League, American League and Federal League bosses settled their differences at a meeting in Cincinnati. What in fact happened was the National and American leagues flex their muscles, and the Federal League ceased to exist.

The rise and fall of the renegade league also put the wheels in motion to exempt major league baseball from competition.

The Federal League came about as a minor league in 1912. It declared itself a “major league” in 1914. It had a couple successful seasons with good pennant races and good attendance after luring stars from the National and American Leagues. It was an eight-team league competing in the major league cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh (it also had teams in Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Buffalo).

What brought about the events of this day in 1915 was the Federal League had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National and American Leagues claiming they were illegal monopolies. The case stalled in the court of federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis while the future baseball commissioner urged negotiation. The Federal League’s position weakened as the delay drained it of funds. Several FL owners were bought out and some teams absorbed into the NL and AL.

The Baltimore franchise of the Federal League was not happy with the agreement and sued. The lawsuit went all the way to the United States Supreme Court which ruled in 1922 that major league baseball was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, a decision in affect to this day.

Ironically, the episode gave a glimpse of what was to come 60 years later – free agency. Not only would the 1915 agreement bring amnesty for National and American League players who had jumped to the Federal League, but they would be able to sell their services to the highest bidder.

Another legacy of the defunct Federal League was Chicago’s Weeghman Park, built for the now defunct Chicago Whales. It was taken over by the National League franchise Chicago Cubs and renamed Wrigley Field, the same park they play in today. So, the National and American Leagues flex their muscles and major league baseball got a baseball shrine.

Contributing sources:
Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, December 23, 1915
Federal League

NOVEMBER 12 – MEET THE NEW BOSS

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • Today – NOVEMBER 12TH  in baseball history: Pete Townsend wrote “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,”  in the Who classic, Won’t Get Fooled Again. That’s not unlike when Major League Baseball owners gave in to Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis on this date in 1920. They named him the game’s first Commissioner.

The public relations nightmare of the 1919 Black Sox scandal was just coming to light. Owners were fearful the effect of the scandal would have on the popularity of the game. They were pursuing an independent 3-member commission to rule the game. A favorite of the owners to be one of the commissioners was Judge Landis, but he would only serve if he was sole Commissioner. That’s how a single baseball Commissioner came to be.

According to Leonard Koppett, author of Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, 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 remain on the federal bench, but his $7,500 judge salary would be deducted from his baseball salary.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis is most remembered for banning eight members of the Chicago White Sox for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series.

Koppett suspects Landis was named commissioner as payback for bailing out major league baseball when he was the presiding judge over an antitrust lawsuit in 1915.

While the antitrust litigation had a more lasting effect, Kennesaw Mountain Landis is most remembered for banning eight members of the Chicago White Sox for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series. A jury had found the players not guilty of throwing the series – partly because confessions they made were lost – but Judge Landis didn’t care about the acquittals. His view was they confessed to accepting bribes, so they were forbidden to ever play major league baseball again.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was Commissioner for 24 years – the longest of any baseball commissioner. That’s what happened TODAY – November 12th – in baseball history.

Contributing sources:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball
, by Leonard Koppett, 2004