U.S. District Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis accepted the offer to become baseball’s first commissioner on November 12, 1920. The decision to hire a commissioner came in the wake of the 1919 World Series scandal, which involved eight White Sox players who were paid off by gamblers to throw the Series against Cincinnati. Landis would officially begin his new role in January 1921.
To replace the three-man National Commission, formerly governed by league presidents Ban Johnson and John Heydler and Reds owner Garry Herrmann, Kenesaw Mountain Landis became baseball’s first commissioner on January 21, 1921. After expressing initial reluctance, Landis accepted the job in November 1920 for seven years at a salary of $50,000, on condition he could remain on the federal bench.
On March 28, 1970, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced the re-institution of fan balloting for the MLB All-Star Game. It would be the first time since 1957 that fans would get to vote on the eight position players, a practice that had been revoked after years of ballot stuffing. To prevent the problem from happening again, 26 million ballots were evenly distributed to 75,000 retail outlets and 150 minor and major league stadiums. Kuhn also announced that a special panel would determine whether ballot stuffing occurred in the voting.
The post of Commissioner of Baseball was offered to J. Edgar Hoover in March of 1951. However, in spite of being a fan of the game, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned down the job. Several owners had been dissatisfied with the direction of Commissioner A.B. “Happy” Chandler and hoped Hoover would bring the type of leadership they were looking for. Hoover opted, instead, to stay with the FBI until his death in 1972. Chandler would remain baseball commissioner until July 1951, and was eventually replaced by Ford Frick.
On March 3, 1984, Peter Ueberroth was elected the MLB’s sixth commissioner, replacing Bowie Kuhn. Ueberroth was also the president of the 1984 Olympic Committee, when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. As a condition of his hiring, Ueberroth increased the commissioner’s fining ability from $5,000 to $250,000, and his salary was raised to $450,000, nearly double what Kuhn was paid.
On March 20, 1989, Peter Ueberroth, the commissioner of baseball, and commissioner-elect A. Bartlett Giamatti released a statement that Major League Baseball was investigating the allegations surrounding Reds’ manager Pete Rose and gambling. According to the statement, the commissioner’s office “has for several months been conducting a full inquiry into serious allegations involving Mr. Pete Rose.” While the commissioner’s office declined further comment, rumors of a possible suspension surrounded the investigation.
Bud Selig is down to his last handful of days as commissioner of baseball. Selig took over baseball as chairman of the executive council in 1992, following Fay Vincent’s resignation. Though he insisted that he would never take the job permanently, Selig was elected commissioner in 1998 and will have been in charge of baseball for the second-longest term in baseball history. Only Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who held the job from 1920 to 1944, was commissioner longer. On Sunday, January 25, Rob Manfred will take over as the new commissioner of baseball, thus ending Selig’s long run.
Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
~A. Bartlett Giamatti