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Original Issue

If the Judge Ruled Today

The question arises: If Kenesaw Mountain Landis were alive today and at the height of his considerable powers, how might he have dealt with some of the issues facing the now commissionerless game?

Marge Schott. Commissioner Landis would likely have defended her right of free speech and taken no punitive action. Besides, little of what she said would have offended him.

Pete Rose and George Steinbrenner. Both would undoubtedly have been banned from the game for life, with absolutely no possibility of reinstatement. Landis regarded gamblers as Satan's stepchildren. The mere suggestion that Rose bet on his own team or that Steinbrenner consorted with a professional gambler would have earned them Landis's eternal scorn. Actually, the Judge would never have let George into the game in the first place because Steinbrenner, at the time he bought the Yankees, owned a stable of racehorses. Throughout his tenure as commissioner, Landis fought off all efforts by horsemen to buy teams, among them Bing Crosby and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.

Steve Howe. Landis couldn't tolerate drinkers, let alone drug abusers. Howe, the seven-time loser, would join Pete and George in oblivion.

Player salaries. The Judge would not have cared a fig how much money the spendthrift owners were losing. Damn fools, he would have called them. At the same time, though, Landis was antiunion. Despite his opposition to baseball's old Reserve Clause, he would have strongly resisted the emergence of the Players Association. Landis was too fond of "freeing the slaves" by his own edict to tolerate competition from union organizers.

The designated hitter. For Landis the game of baseball was as near to perfection as any invention of man could be. A rule change allowing a 10th man on a side would have been a near-lethal affront to his sensibilities.

Expansion. Landis preached that baseball occupied a "sacred place" in American culture He would probably have been a proponent of expansion, seeing it as the natural and inevitable means of spreading the gospel.

Expanded playoffs. The World Series was Landis's personal fiefdom, and he watched over it from his field box like a lord of the manor. (In the 1934 Series, for example, when angry Detroit fans began pelting Cardinal outfielder Ducky Medwick with garbage, Landis, sensing a riot, usurped St. Louis manager Frankie Frisch's authority and ordered Medwick removed from the game.) Landis would allow nothing to diminish the stature of his showcase event. He quickly put a stop to the nine-game World Series format that prevailed from 1919 through 1921, saying that it was too drawn out, and restored the best-of-seven format. Even if Landis had accepted divisional playoffs as the price for expansion and growth, the suggestion of two-tiered divisional playoffs with wild-card entries would surely have prompted him, in a grand display of outrage, to tender his resignation. Either that or the Judge would have banished forever the crackpots who came up with such a ridiculous scheme.