Richards: The legacy of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis

From Lawrence Richards at The National Pastime Museum on May 24, 2016:

Everything about Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis embodied the designation “Squire,” the nickname his siblings bestowed upon him as a boy. Even then he was pompous, starchy, and austere. The future commissioner of baseball had a foreboding countenance, not unlike the look and demeanor of the prototype “Hollywood hanging Judge.” He had epic eye-bags and a perpetual scowl. Journalist John Reed wrote, “He looked like Andrew Jackson . . . three years dead.”

The 1919 World Series scandal threatened to undermine the very essence of the game. The National Pastime was perceived as The National Disgrace. The game staggered beneath indictments charging racketeering, gambling, and conspiracy. The club owners were petrified, justifiably so, their cash cows would run dry. They scrambled to find a savior, someone outside their tightly knit fraternity. They picked a slight 5-foot, 8-inch, 130-pound judge from Chicago. He was granted unprecedented powers. He restored the public trust; he also changed baseball forever. The owners? They got more than they bargained for; a lot more.    

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was born in 1866, the son of a Union soldier. His father, Abraham, was badly wounded in the battle of Kennesaw Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia. His father was both a country doctor and a corn and wheat farmer, and the Squire would look back on his rural boyhood in northern Indiana, where he helped plow the fields with “the sweetest mules in the world,” as “the happiest days of my life.”

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Originally published: May 24, 2016. Last Updated: May 24, 2016.