Former baseball players who have won the Most Valuable Player award throughout the years have called on the league to remove former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from the plaques.
Landis’ name is displayed on both the American and National League MVP award plaques. He was known for cleaning up gambling in the sport but MLB historian John Thorn said his legacy is “always a complicated story” that includes “documented racism.”
Landis’ past makes Hall of Famer Barry Larkin wonder why his name is still on there.
“I was always aware of his name and what that meant to slowing the color line in Major League Baseball, of the racial injustice and inequality that black players had to go through,” Larkin told The Associated Press.
Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt agreed.
“If you’re looking to expose individuals in baseball’s history who promoted racism by continuing to close baseball’s doors to men of color, Kenesaw Landis would be a candidate,” he said.
“Looking back to baseball in the early 1900s, this was the norm. It doesn't make it right, though. Removing his name from the MVP trophy would expose the injustice of that era. I’d gladly replace the engraving on my trophies.”
Landis was Major League Baseball’s commissioner from 1920 to 1944. During his time, there were no black players in baseball. Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Landis was a federal judge and his claim to fame at the time was banning Joe Jackson and the Black Sox for throwing the 1919 World Series. He allowed the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to pick the MVP awards for each league in 1931 and the organization voted to have his name added to the plaques in 1944. He died a month later and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Landis is who he is. He was who he was,” Thorn told the AP. “I absolutely support the movement to remove Confederate monuments, and Landis was pretty damn near Confederate.”
Larkin said when he won the MVP award in 1994, he received a call from Joe Morgan – a two-time MVP winner in his own right. Larkin said Morgan raised the issue with him and that he agreed.
“His name should not be represented on a plaque or award of honor, especially at this day and time,” Larkin said. “If his name was taken off, I would not be opposed to it at all.”
Landis’ name is not part of the BBWAA’s constitution and any member is allowed to raise an objection, secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.