NEW YORK (AP) — A group of House Democrats called Tuesday for the name of former baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to be pulled off future Most Valuable Player plaques, an idea endorsed by several players who have won the award.
U.S. Reps. Gil Cisneros of California and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana sent a letter signed by 28 members of Congress to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America asking for action.
In late June, former NL MVPs Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt and Terry Pendleton told The Associated Press they would favor removing Landis’ name from the trophy because of concerns over his handling of Black players.
“We recognize that Commissioner Landis’ namesake on the award is the result of his role in creating the system by which the Baseball Writers’ Association of America picks each league’s MVP recipient,” the letter said.
“However, given that Commissioner Landis perpetuated baseball’s ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement,’ to keep Black players out of the major leagues, we agree it is time to remove his name from the award, and move toward a more inclusive award designation,” it said.
Landis was hired as MLB’s first commissioner in 1920. No Blacks played in the big leagues during his time in office that ended with his death in late 1944 — Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 and Larry Doby followed later that season.
Each AL and NL MVP trophy since Landis died has been stamped with his name, in letters double the size of the winner, and an imprint of his face. Landis let the BBWAA oversee the picking and presenting of MVPs in 1931.
All 28 Democrats have played in the Congressional Baseball Game, an annual charity event at Nationals Park. Richmond pitched at Morehouse College and Cisneros is a Dodgers fan who has a quote from Robinson on his office wall.
BBWAA leadership is discussing the issue and there is strong agreement within the organization to remove Landis’ name. The next BBWAA gathering is scheduled for December in Dallas at the Winter Meetings.
The MVP winners are announced each year in November and presented in January. This year’s timeline could be disrupted by the coronavirus-delayed season.
Manfred, in a letter to Cisneros and Richmond, noted that the BBWAA administers the MVP process.
“I am pleased by the BBWAA’s decision to take up this matter as soon as possible and I assure you I will monitor it very closely,” Manfred wrote.