This junk wouldn’t have happened if Kenesaw Mountain Landis was alive.

I am speaking now of the Cheating Houston Astros and the complete lack of intestinal fortitude shown by current Commissioner of Baseball Rob “The Joke” Manfred. There’s another word I would have preferred to intestinal fortitude, but this is still a family newspaper.

A bit of history for the uninformed. In 1919, some members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to lose the World Series on purpose in exchange for large sums of money (for the times) from gamblers. The most famous of the “Black Sox” as they became known, was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who batted .375 during the series, with a homer, three doubles and six runs batted in. The Braves could have used somebody like that in the previous post-season. Jackson’s teammates insisted that he never attended a single one of the meetings in which they conspired with the gamblers and he gave back the $5,000 he received (of the $20K promised) when he realized what had actually happened.

If you’re wondering how I know so much about it, I wrote a college term paper for Brad Bradley on the subject. We got an A.

When the scandal was exposed people distrusted baseball and stayed away from baseball in droves. Like Yogi said, “If people don’t want to come out to the ballgame, nobody’s gonna stop ‘em.”

To help try and save the game the Office of the Commissioner was created, and a federal judge appointed by Theodore Roosevelt, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was given the job. That wasn’t a nickname, by the way. Kenesaw Mountain was the man’s given name, because his father had fought there during the recent unpleasantness. (But he spelled it with just one ‘n’. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Landis ruled baseball with an iron fist from his appointment in 1922 until his death in 1944 and declared that all the Black Sox conspirators, including Joe Jackson, be banned from baseball for life. He also decried that the same ban would apply to any baseball player ever found to have bet on the game. By extension, Kenesaw Mountain Landis is keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Now Major League Baseball is in cahoots with the MGM casino in Las Vegas. Hypocrisy much?

Over the years most baseball commissioners followed precedents set by Judge Landis and ran a very tight ship. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were both banned from baseball by Bowie Kuhn for signing endorsement deals with casinos. They were reinstated, thankfully by Kuhn’s successor, Peter Ueberroth.

Kuhn also declared that Braves pitcher Andy Messersmith couldn’t wear the nickname “Channel” over the number 17 on back of his jersey and overturned the trades of Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue away from the Oakland A’s as being “not in the best interest of baseball,” which is painting with a pretty broad brush.

Which brings us to the topic of the Houston Astros and baseball’s current sorry state of affairs. It has been proven over the past few weeks that the Astros, over the past few seasons, have conspired to steal games from their opponents and cheat baseball fans out of watching fair and competitive matches.

They used electronic devices to steal signs and transported the signs to the dugout where players beat out codes on trash cans to tip off what pitch was coming. If you don’t think this is a big deal, you’ve never stood 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitchers’ mound with a bat in your hand.

The Astros won the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers using this system. They also won the 2019 American League pennant and division titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In every instance their offensive performances at home were exponentially superior to their performance on the road, where they didn’t have their corrupt system in place.

Revelations of the Astros deviance has created a furor among player and fans alike — everywhere except the commissioner’s office, where Rob Manfred has done, well, nothing at all to punish the players involved. Nothing. The players get to play. The World Series trophy — which Manfred called “just a piece of metal” — stays in Houston and it’s just like nothing ever happened.

This is a bigger blight on the National Pastime than spitballs, the designated hitter, and World Series games ending after midnight during the week combined.

Reinstate Joe Jackson. Free Pete Rose. Bean the Astros hitters. And ban Rob Manfred for life.

Play ball.

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Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com.

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