Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt, More Call for Landis to Be Removed from MVP Plaque

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2006, file photo,a  Joe DiMaggio 1947 MVP Award Plaque is displayed at a news conference in New York. The plaque features the name and image of Kenesaw Mountain Landis. (AP Photo/Jennifer Szymaszek, File)
Jennifer Szymaszek/Associated Press

The MLB Most Valuable Player award bears the name of former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. It may not remain there for long. 

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who won the National League MVP in 1995, has questioned why Landis' name remains on the physical plaque.

"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," the Hall of Famer said, per the Associated Press' Ben Walker.

Mike Schmidt, a three-time MVP winner, echoed Larkin's sentiment:

"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.

"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."

Terry Pendleton, the NL winner in 1991, alluded to how the ongoing protests are forcing Americans to come to terms with the track record of racism displayed by past historical figures.

"Statues are coming down, people are looking at monuments and memorials," Pendleton said. "We need to get to the bottom of things, to do what's right. Yes, maybe it is time to change the name."

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The Minnesota Twins announced earlier this month they were removing a statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who moved the franchise from Washington, D.C. in 1961. Griffith had once said he moved the Twins to Minnesota because "we found out you only had 15,000 Blacks here."

Landis served as the commissioner of baseball from 1920 to 1944, arriving in the wake of the Chicago Black Sox scandal. He was tabbed to be a stabilizing influence over the sport to rebuild trust among fans. 

Legendary sportswriter J.G. Taylor Spink wrote that baseball was "cleansed of the nasty spots which followed World War I" by the time Landis died.

However, critics of Landis point to the fact baseball still hadn't integrated under his watch. Walker wrote that Landis told owners they could sign Black players, "but there is no evidence he pushed for baseball integration, either, as the status quo of segregation remained."

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