Who was the first baseball commissioner?

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in America and around the world. It has a long history, and the first baseball commissioner played an integral role in the development of the game. The first baseball commissioner was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, an American lawyer and judge who served from 1920-1944. He is credited with bringing order and fairness to the game of baseball during a tumultuous time of change and growth. In this article, we will explore Landis’ background, his role as baseball commissioner, and his legacy.

Background of Kenesaw Mountain Landis

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was born in Millville, Ohio on November 20, 1866. He was the son of Abraham and Mary Landis, and he had two brothers. He attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and then studied law at Cincinnati Law School. In 1889, he was admitted to the Ohio bar and began practicing law. He was a successful lawyer, and in 1905 he was appointed as a federal judge.

Role as Baseball Commissioner

In 1920, Landis was appointed as the first baseball commissioner by the major league clubs. This was a monumental moment in baseball history as it marked the beginning of an era of order and fairness in the game that was sorely needed. Landis was tasked with cleaning up the game and restoring public confidence. He was given the authority to suspend or fine players, managers, and owners for misconduct. He also had the power to reject any trades or contracts he deemed unfair.

Banning the “Black Sox”

One of the most famous events in baseball history occurred in 1919 when a group of players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of taking bribes to throw the World Series. This became known as the “Black Sox” scandal and it rocked the baseball world. Landis took swift and decisive action, banning all eight players involved for life. This decision sent a strong message that corruption would not be tolerated in the game.

Creating Minor Leagues

Landis was also responsible for creating the minor league system in baseball. He helped organize the minor league teams and gave them a unified governing structure. This allowed players to develop their skills and move up through the ranks to become major league players.

Banning the Reserve Clause

The reserve clause was a rule in baseball that allowed teams to retain players’ rights for an indefinite period of time. This was seen as unfair to the players, and Landis took action to ban the reserve clause. This allowed players to become free agents, which gave them more control over their careers and increased their earning potential.

Handling Disputes

Throughout his tenure as commissioner, Landis handled a number of disputes between players, owners, and teams. He was known for his firm and fair decisions, and his rulings were usually respected and followed. He was also known for his integrity and honesty, and he often took unpopular stances if he felt it was the right thing to do.


Landis served as the baseball commissioner for 24 years, and his legacy is still felt today. He is credited with restoring order and fairness to the game, and his rulings and decisions had a lasting impact on the way the game is played. He is remembered as one of the most influential figures in baseball history, and he is honored with a statue outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Influence on Future Commissioners

Landis’ legacy has also been felt by his successors. Many of the commissioners that followed in his footsteps have tried to emulate his leadership style and rulings. They have used his example to guide their decisions and help shape the game into what it is today.


Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the first baseball commissioner, and his legacy is still felt today. He brought order and fairness to the game during a time of turmoil and growth. He is remembered for his stern but fair rulings, his integrity, and his dedication to the game. He is honored with a statue outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago, and his influence can still be seen in the decisions of future commissioners.