Several of baseball's former Most Valuable Player Award winners are advocating for Kenesaw Mountain Landis' name to be removed from the MVP trophy due to the first MLB commissioner's history of racism.
Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Mike Schmidt, as well as Braves star Terry Pendleton, all told the Associated Press they support taking Landis' name off the award.
Landis was MLB commissioner from 1920 until his death in 1944. During that time, no Black players played in the Major Leagues. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
"I was always aware of his name and what that meant to slowing the [breaking of the] color line in Major League Baseball, of the racial injustice and inequality that Black players had to go through," Larkin told the AP. "His name should not be represented on a plaque or award of honor, especially at this day and time. If his name was taken off, I would not be opposed to it at all."
Larkin, who won NL MVP in 1995, recalled fellow Reds great Joe Morgan calling him at the time and telling him that it didn't sit well that Landis' name was on the plaque.
Both the American League and National League MVP plaques have been inscribed as the "Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award" and have featured Landis' face since 1944. Landis named the Baseball Writers Association of America as the voters for the AL and NL MVP Awards in 1931, and during the 1944 World Series the BBWAA decided to add Landis' name to the award.
Schmidt, the Phillies icon who won three NL MVP Awards, told the AP that Landis falls under the category of those who "promoted racism by continuing to close baseball’s doors to men of color."
"Looking back to baseball in the early 1900s, this was the norm. It doesn’t make it right, though," Schmidt said. "Removing his name from the MVP trophy would expose the injustice of that era. I'd gladly replace the engraving on my trophies."
Pendleton, the 1991 NL MVP, said he's always thought about why Landis' name remains on the plaque. He suggested the MVP Award could stand on its own and doesn't need a name attached.
"This is 2020 now and things have changed all around the world. It can change for the better," Pendleton said. "Yes, maybe it is time to change the name."
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell told the AP that the MVP trophy can be changed if a member raises the issue to be brought before the board for discussion and a vote. If the BBWAA voted to remove Landis' name, the MVP plaque would be redesigned.