In 2019, then-Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora presents the AL Most Valuable Player trophy to Mookie Betts, who now plays for the Dodgers. (Winslow Townson)
New York – The name of the former Major League Baseball player who never admitted a black player during his long reign will be dropped from the Most Valuable Player plaque after 75 years of being there.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis will no longer be the name inscribed on the award given each year by the North American Baseball Writers Association (BBWAA), the group reported Friday. The decision was made after 89% of the members voted to remove the name.
“We will no longer be associated with the Landis name and the MVP (Most Valuable Player) plaque will be unnamed in 2020,” said BBWAA President Paul Sullivan.
“Hopefully when we get a bit of normalcy in 2021 we can have a healthy debate about adding a new name or leaving it as the BBWAA MVP award,” he added.
In a story published by The Associated Press in June, former winners Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt and Terry Pendleton said they were in favor of dropping Landis' name, given his stance on black players.
Larkin, a black shortstop who was the 1995 National League MVP with Cincinnati, applauded the decision.
A look at the trophy awarded to the Most Valuable Player in the Major Leagues. The model will be redesigned. (JENNIFER SZYMASZEK)
“For me, the MVP award should be a positive thing,” Larkin told the AP on Friday. “It shouldn't fog up. I think the Most Valuable Player award is important in itself. It doesn't need a name. “
Upon learning of the BBWAA's decision, Pendleton, the African-American third baseman to win this honor in 1993 with Atlanta, wrote, “It's the right thing to do.”
Major League Baseball will redesign the trophy, said Jack O'Connell, BBWAA secretary treasurer. On November 12, the winners of the National and American League of the shortened coronavirus campaign will be announced.
Landis became the first MLB commissioner in 1920 and there were no African-American players while he was in charge until his death in 1944. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 and Larry Dobby followed a year later.
Landis' legacy will be “always a complicated story” that includes “documented racism,” said official MLB historian John Thorn.
In 1931 Landis gave control to the BBWAA to choose and present the award to the MVP. In the 1944 World Series, the BBWAA voted to put Landis's name on the plaque “in recognition of his relationship with journalists,” O'Connell said.
Landis passed away a month later at age 78 and was quickly elected to the Hall of Fame.
“We are in 2020 and now things are changing around the world. They can change for the better, ”Pendleton said. “The statues are falling, people are seeing the monuments and memorials.”