Kenesaw Mountain Landis Draft

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Kennesaw Mountain; many know it as the cite of a Civil War battle fought in Indiana. Most don’t know that it shares a name with one of the most famous Hoosiers in history: Kenesaw Mountain Landis. This man grew from humble beginnings and made something of himself. Despite the fact of him not actually being born in Indiana, he contributed much to the growth and unionization of the Hoosier state and the nation as a whole (Eastland Memorial Society).

Early years

On November 20, 1866, in Millville, Ohio, a baby was born named Kenesaw Mountain Landis. His father, Dr. Abraham Hoch Landis, who had fought in the Civil War, suggested the name for his son. When the boy got older, he and his family moved to Logansport, Indiana, where “Ken”, as he was called, began attending school. As Ken got older, his fascination with the game of baseball grew. At the age of 17, he played on and managed his Logansport High School baseball team (Eastland Memorial Society, Kenesaw Mountain Landis).

Beginnings in Law

Although his love for the game did continue to grow, Ken dropped out of high school and took a job as a clerk in the South Bend, Indiana, courthouse. One of his first ambitions in life was to become a brakeman on the Vandalia and Southern Railroad, but, much to his dismay, was rejected. With this goal dashed, he enrolled in pre-law courses at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to get at law degree from Chicago’s Union Law School. After graduating in 1891, he opened up his own law practice (Eastland Memorial Society, The Official Site of Major League Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis).

Landis’ two brothers, Charles Beary Landis (1858-1922) and Frederick Landis (1872-1934), both became Indiana congressman. Landis would tag along with his two brothers and sit in on State Department cabinet meetings they attended. In March of 1905, Ken was appointed a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois by President Theodore Roosevelt. In this position, Landis handled many cases of historical significance; such as the Eastland Disaster, the third-worst ship disaster ever, and a Standard Oil antitrust trial, in which he fined them $29 million for accepting rail freight rebates (Eastland Memorial Society, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Massey, The Official Site of Major League Baseball).

Commissioner of Baseball

The case that proceeded Landis’ reputation to the magnitude it reached, and is still at today, was the Federal League’s antitrust suit against Organized Baseball. After this, many believed Landis had single-handedly saved baseball; in particular, the owners of Organized Baseball. They knew that without his delayed reaction to the antitrust suit, there could have been a “legal test of baseball’s monopoly status”. Landis was an obvious choice to restore confidence in the all-American sport, and the owners knew it. All of them, with the exception of Phil Ball of the Browns, paid Landis a visit, offering him chairmanship of a new three-member Board of Control over Major League Baseball. Judge Landis was having none of this and demanded that he be the only one appointed to this position; which he was granted. This was not the only time the owners came to Landis in times of trouble (Eastland Memorial Society).

Black Sox Scandal

In 1919, it got around the owners of the Chicago White Sox that some of the players were planning on throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. But, with a weak governing commission for the sport, there was little the owners could do about it. Once again the owners, 14 to be exact, showed up in Judge Landis’ courtroom, but this time it was to request him as their Commissioner of Baseball, the first ever in the history of the sport. Landis accepted. He received $50,000 a year in addition to getting a contract, which specified that he could not be fired, fined, or criticized in public by the owners, his ostensible employers. He stayed on as judge for a year, then quit when he was accused of a conflict of interest (Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Biography and Much More from

With another unexpected achievement under his belt, Landis’ next feat was to put a stop to the rumors of a fix going on about the Chicago White Sox, by forever banishing the eight “1919 Series Fixers”. The eight players soon became known as the “Black Sox”, as was the rest of the team for a while, and were exempt from ever being inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame (Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Biography and Much More from

During this time, Landis “cleaned up baseball” and was not afraid of any player or owner that tried to challenge him. So little as having financial interest in horse racing could set Landis off to even the most respectable of players or owners. A few of the so-called “corrupt” players included Benny Kauff, Phil Douglas, and Jimmy O’Connell. He even busted the legendary Babe Ruth and teammate Bob Meusel for barnstorming without permission following the 1921 World Series. But although, Landis ruled with an iron fist, some did see he had good intentions. "He was always on the side of the ballplayer," said manager Leo Durocher. "He had no use for the owners at all" (Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Biography and Much More from, The Official Site of Major League Baseball).

Criticisms of Landis

Some believed that too much power was installed into one man, that man being Landis. Not many saw him as a very cheerful character either. Baseball historian Harold Seymour described him as a "scowling, white-haired, hawk-visaged curmudgeon who affected battered hats, used salty language, chewed tobacco, and poked listeners in the ribs with a stiff right finger." It was even accounted that Landis repeatedly refused to integrate the Major Leagues and upheld the unwritten ban on African American players (Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Biography and Much More from

On November 25, 1944, Landis died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago at the age of 78 (See Appendix E). He had renewed his contract only eight days before; the owners merely did this as a tribute to Landis for his hard work and dedication to his job, and a month later he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Biography and Much More from, The Official Site of Major League Baseball: History: Commissioners).


Kenesaw Mountain Landis made a mark not only in the history of baseball, but in the history of our nation. He erected structure and virtue into the institution of baseball. He was very stubborn and didn’t let anyone influence his decisions, some even went so far as to say that he held office for a little too long, but perhaps he’s why this sport has sustained its valor and tradition for so many years. No matter anyone’s opinion of him, Kenesaw Mountain Landis is living proof that if one follows one’s dreams and works hard, one can overcome even the feeblest of circumstances.



This article was written by Brooke Applewhite as a project in Mr. Munn's AP US History class and submitted on May 18, 2008.