It’s Time For A New MVP Handle

Josh Gibson
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 It’s Time For A New MVP Handle

Kenesaw Mountain Landis

What’s In A Name

We’ll start with the name: Kenesaw Mountain Landis. It is quite a name. Where did it come from? The Civil War, of course. Kenesaw’s father was wounded at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain. And when his son was born in 1866, he decided to name him after said battle. Poof, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Work, Work, Work

Landis went on to become a lawyer and a federal judge, gaining national recognition when he fined Standard Oil of Indiana, which is the equivalent to a judge slapping a huge fine on say, Apple or Facebook or Disney or any other company that controls a good part of the world.

In 1920 the National League and American League weren’t feeling that great about the 1919 Black Sox scandal. You know the one, where eight players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, threw the World Series for some cash. Well, both leagues were embarrassed by this scandal, along with many less publicized instances of throwing games, and they wanted to bring in somebody to clean up the game. Who better than a man named after a Civil War battle?

Both leagues decided that Landis was their guy and appointed him baseball’s first commissioner. Kenesaw enjoyed having power. Baseball needed somebody in power. The major leagues granted Landis authority to do what he must in the best interest of baseball. He cleaned up the game with unwavering determination.

The Gentleman’s Agreement

The ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was an unwritten agreement between baseball owners to not sign black players to their teams. The agreement had been around for many years when Landis was appointed commissioner in 1920. Kenesaw held his tenure as commissioner for the next twenty-four years. During his time in office, Landis did many things, but one thing he didn’t do was integrate the game.

Landis passed away in 1944. That same year the Baseball Writers’ Association of America renamed the MVP award after Landis. He was also elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a special committee vote.

Major League Baseball was integrated in April of 1947, three years after Landis’ death when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Seventy-six years after the MVP award was named for Landis, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided with a vote of 89 percent to remove his name from the award.

So, who should replace Landis on the MVP award?

Josh Gibson

A Trifecta of Greatness

There are three candidates in the proverbial MVP soup to replace Landis.

The first is Frank Robinson. Robinson accomplished many great things over his illustrious career including being the only player to win the MVP in both leagues. He was also the first black manager in the American League with the Cleveland Indians as well as the first black manager in the National League with the San Francisco Giants.  Coupled with his hall of fame career, Robinson would be a worthy recipient of such an honor.

Branch Rickey is the second candidate. His contributions to the game are nearly immeasurable from the introduction of the batting helmet to creating the minor league farm system to his key role in breaking the color barrier. Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in August of 1945 and broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he brought Robinson the Dodgers.  A person who has done as much for the betterment of baseball as Rickey has should surely be considered to have their name immortalized on the MVP award.

These two men are worthy of having their names on the award, but there is a third who is most deserving of the honor, and his name is Josh Gibson.

The Black Babe Ruth

Josh Gibson was commonly known as the black Babe Ruth, but people also call Ruth the white Josh Gibson. And, as we all know, Ruth was considered one of the best power hitters in the history of the game. Gibson is also considered one of the greatest power hitters of all-time. Although statistical records for the Negro Leagues were not meticulously kept, Gibson’s home run totals have been estimated anywhere from 800 to 1,000 lifetime round-trippers. He is also thought to have a .359 career average with 9 home run titles and 4 batting championships.

Josh Gibson played for some of the greatest Negro League teams of all-time including the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He also played in the Dominican League from 1940 through the ’41 season, the Mexican League, and managed for a time in the Puerto Rico Baseball League. Gibson was the second Negro League player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

While these accomplishments are enough to get his name on the MVP award, they are neck and neck with the other two candidates. So what separates Josh from Frank and Branch? It’s simple, the gentleman’s agreement and Landis’ failure to integrate the game directly impacted Gibson.  Gibson was never given a chance to play in the major leagues as a result. That is why he should have his name on the MVP award. It would be poetic justice that Landis would have his name replaced by Gibson.

Judge Landis is out and Josh Gibson is in.

Josh Gibson for MVP.

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