Ever-Changing Era Making Kuhn's Job Most Difficult One

By Leo E. Cloutier

New Hampshire Sunday News, Sunday June 27, 1976

FIVE MEN have guided the destinies of Major League Baseball since 1920, or in the past 56 years , including Judge Kensaw Mountain Landis, Al;bert (Happy) Chandler, Ford Frick, William Eckert and Bowie Kuhn.
Covering that long span of over half a century, the regimes of three of the five men-- Landis, Chandler and Kuhn-- have been anything but a path strewn with roses.
However, of the triumvirate, the one most beset by problems, and countless in number, has been Bowie Kuhn. No one doubts the fact that his woes have been compounded by the ever-changing times.
Landis was the game's first leader and he was summoned to take complete charge, with carte blanche authority, to reestablish our national pastime which had been tarnished in no uncertain manner by the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919, when the Chicago White Sox allegedly threw the world series to the Cincinnati Reds.
The eminent jurist agreed to accept the role of baseball's czar with the provision that he have complete control of the game. So anxious were the club owners to regain public sympathy that they agreed to this policing, yielding all their powers to Landis, who assumed the commissionership on November 12, 1920.
Strangely, Landis did nothing about the White Sox players allegedly involved in the scandal except to state that regardless of the juries findings, he would never permit the players to return to play baseball.

The selection of Landis was the final step in the evolution of baseball government. First there was William Hulbert, who provided a strong government in one league, then, after 3 years, came Ban Johnson, who firmly established the principal of the two rival leagues.
It remained for Landis to supervise both circuits and give neutral council and leadership. The emergence of Landis also meant that league presidents no longer need to be strong men, but merely efficient chief clerks, whose principal duties included the mapping of schedules and the supervision of Umpires.
LANDIS WAS MORE than a symbol- the shaggy white-haired symbol of justice, pounding a gavel into his lean hand and puckering up his lips behind the bench. Landis was the actual instrument of benevolent despotism, and the game, which had been out of commission, now had its first commissioner.
Happy Chandler succeeded Landis in 1945 and the critics complained of various things during the first few years of his administration. They resented the fact that he did not bear a physical resemblance to his predecessor Judge Landis; Felt that it was not dignified for him to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" at banquets, such as did at the Union leader Charity Fund 3rd annual Baseball Dinner held at the state armory in Manchester in 1951, when he was a guest of honor with Lou Boudreau, Walt Dropo and Billy Goodman of the Boston Red Sox and Sam Jethro of the Boston Braves.

Happy Chandler at 3rd Annual Baseball Dinner
When Chandler assumed his post the game was plagued by numerous problems of the most thorny variety including the Mexican ruckus the unionization threat, the hullaballoo raised by such big wigs of the era such as, Branch Ricky, Leo Durocher, Larry MacPhail etc. The commissioner solved all these intricate puzzles with the greatest possible neatness including the Danny Gardello lawsuit, an aftermath of the Mexico episode that threatened to topple the game's entire structure.
WHEN IT CAME to protecting the game of baseball, Chandler was very much like Landis. The Judge lived in fear that baseball would be invaded by gamblers and kept an ever-watchful eye on that contingency. Chandler adopted equally stern measures of dealing with the betting gentry, with the result that there was not a breach of scandal in that direction during his administration.
Frick, much less Eckert, were two Commissioners who were never confronted with any pressing problems during their respective tenures in office. Baseball sailed along at a comparatively smooth pace then.
The heaviest load of problems ever to face the beholder of the title of Baseball commissioner in its 56 year history is today being carried on the broad shoulders of Bowie Kuhn. Bowie's tenure started off on a calm sea, but he has since been forced to travel through the stormiest course of any of his predecessors.
Major League baseball has grown to incredible proportions since the days of Landis and, by the same token, so have the continuous flow of problems. It seems that something new invariably crops up on the diamond horizon nearly every day in the life of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Like Landis and Chandler, Bowies greatest fear is that of gamblers infiltrating the game. He is most concerned with keeping the game's integrity on the high level which it has enjoyed for so many years.
Kuhn's multitude of problems have been compounded by the ever-changing times, but he's doing a masterful job in striving to solve everything of a pressing nature which confront him, down to the most minute details.
Bowie displayed outstanding courage in his recent decision of nullifying the three-player deals consummated by owner Charles O. Finley of the Oakland Athletics with the New York Yankees and Boston red Sox.
Had he chosen to allow the players to change uniforms he would have weakened the games current squabble with the players association to retain some measure of a sound reserve clause, providing the club-owners the dire need to protect themselves against complete disaster and out of business.
With lawsuits instituted by Finley's lawyers notwithstanding, Kuhn's decision certainly was in the best interests of major league baseball.
The reason that baseball decided a few years past to develop a workable draft system for talent was something designed to equalize the strength of each team in the two circuits.
Finley's willingness to sell his star players at such exorbitant prices as he did Vida Blue, Roley Fingers and Joe Rudy, was a move destined to completely ruin the present draft system.
Except maybe for the three clubs involved in the transaction, all of baseball applauds commissioner Bowie Kuhn for his courageous stand on the matter and may he continue to reign with an iron duke, for as long as he is in complete command, the game rests in good hands.


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