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Late in the summer of 1920, Major League Baseball found itself embroiled in a controversy that threatened the integrity of the sport as well as the future of the game, itself. Eight current members of the Chicago White Sox had been accused of "fixing" the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, and all available evidence pointed to the charges as being true. That fall, as the players prepared to defend themselves in court, the Major League team owners convened and decided that they should form a three-member "Board of Control" that would have the power to oversee and govern the League. It had already been decided that the Board would consist of each respective League's President and a Chairman. To fill the latter position they turned outside the game, searching for a man whose integrity was both impeccable and above reproach. Their search found its object in Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a well-known federal judge, who some years earlier had made his name by fining Standard Oil a record 29 million dollars. The owners also picked Landis for his famous "non-ruling" in 1915, regarding the challenge of the Federal League. Many team owners rightly felt that by delaying his decision in that matter he left the Federal League owners with few options other than to come to terms with established, organized baseball. Landis' action at that time single-handedly preserved the stability of the sport during a period of challenge. Now, they were effectively asking him to do that once again, but this time in an official League capacity. So, on November 12, 1920, the owners met with Landis in his chambers, outlined their plan, and offered him the position of Chairman. Landis agreed, with one condition: there would be no democracy in the council. He, and only he, would have absolute power in all matters. The owners acquiesced, and on January 12, 1921, the office of the Commissioner of Baseball was established. Major League Baseball would never be the same again.

Presented here is the actual legal agreement that established the office of Commissioner in Major League Baseball. As such, it is arguably the most significant document in baseball history. The seven-page, typewritten agreement, carrying the title, "Major League Agreement - Agreement between the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs and each of its eight constituent clubs, of the one part, and the American League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, and each of its eight constituent clubs, of the other part," is dated January 12, 1921. It has been signed by each respective League President and all sixteen club owners (or their official representatives). The eighteen black ink signatures appearing on the document are those of John Heydler (National League President), Ban Johnson (American League President), George Grant (Boston Braves), Charles Ebbets (Brooklyn),William Veeck, Sr. (Chicago Cubs), August Herrmann (Cincinnati), Charles Stoneham (New York Giants), William Baker (Philadelphia Phillies), Barney Dreyfuss (Pittsburgh), Sam Breadon (St. Louis Cardinals), Harry Frazee (Boston Red Sox), Charles Comiskey (Chicago White Sox), James Dunn (Cleveland), Frank Navin (Detroit), Jacob Ruppert (New York Yankees), Thomas Shibe (Vice President, Philadelphia A's), J.A. Robt-Quinn (Vice President, St. Louis Browns) and Clark Griffith (Washington). The signatures are deep, bold and highly legible throughout.

The new organizational agreement is detailed in seven separate Articles, each of which marked a radical change with respect to the prevailing hierarchy in organized baseball. Article I, Section I creates the Office of the Commissioner, with further sections fully delineating his functions and powers. Those powers, as created by this agreement, are exceptionally broad and discretionary. Regarding conduct detrimental to baseball by Major Leagues, Major League clubs, officers, employees or players, it states, "...punishment may extend to suspension or removal. For such conduct, a player may be declared by the Commissioner temporarily or permanently ineligible to play for any club which is a party to this agreement." (This was a right that Landis would exercise quite freely after taking office, most notably against the eight Chicago White Sox World Series conspirators.) Article VII, Section I clearly describes the autonomy enjoyed by the Commissioner: "The Major Leagues, and their constituent clubs, severally agree to be bound by the decisions of the Commissioner, and the discipline imposed by him under the provisions of this agreement, and severally waive such right of recourse to the Courts as would otherwise have existed in their favor." Section II further adds, "The form of player's contract to be proposed to the Major Leagues by the Advisory council, and all contracts between Major Leagues or Clubs and their officers and employees, shall contain a clause by which the parties agree to submit themselves to the discipline of the Commissioner, and to accept his decisions rendered in accordance with this agreement." Additional specifics, detailed under other Articles and Sections, include: the formal declaration of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first Commissioner under the agreement, the establishment of his $50,000 annual salary and seven-year renewable term, and the stipulation that the agreement would remain in force for a period of 25 years.

Landis remained in office as Commissioner of Baseball until his death in 1944. Although his tenure will be forever defined by his sweeping condemnation and subsequent banishment of all eight 1919 White Sox conspirators, Landis was actually very sympathetic to players' rights ... to a greater extent than the owners had expected. A dictator in every sense of the word, the owners would come to feel that they had truly "created a monster" by appointing Landis, yet his stern actions and heartfelt passion for both the game and its integrity helped to stabilize the sport at a time when that influence was most direly needed.

The Office of Commissioner, as defined by this agreement, was abolished by team owners in 1992. The modification was inspired by their growing intolerance for the supreme power of the office, the legacy of which was handed down by Judge Landis. It is doubtful that the team owners will ever resurrect the Office of Commissioner as it existed under the 1921 agreement, thus making this particular relic a truly unique and especially important component of the game's history.

The 9" x 13" agreement – which presents very favorably – exhibits three horizontal folds as well as a pair of minor, two-inch tears (bringing about no paper loss) along the edge of the first page. The neatly arrayed signatures are vividly black-inked exemplars, faulted only by traces of smudging in the penmanship of Stoneham. LOA from PSA/DNA (AA05657).

Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $25,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $101,575.00
Estimate: $100,000+
Number Bids: 16
Auction closed on Sunday, May 8, 2016.
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