Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landisby David Pietrusza
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Since his death in 1944, history has transformed Kenesaw Mountain Landis into a one-dimensional figure: the stem, scowling ruler of baseball who rescued the sport from the depths of the Black Sox scandal—banishing wrongdoers, scowling at owners, helping to block racial integration. JUDGE AND JURY: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis strips away the myths and facile explanations to reveal the real Landis—with all the subtleties and contradictions that made him not only czar of baseball, but also the most I famous, popular, and controversial federal judge in America.
Landis' historic $29 million fine on John D. Rockefeller's grasping of the Standard Oil trust was but the most sensational decision of a long and fiery career on the bench. Through his courtroom trooped such fascinating figures as "Big Bill" Haywood and his radical IWW, bootleggers, gamblers, and con men, religious cultists, and the arsenic-dispensing murderer Herman Billick. The Judge could be harsh-sentencing anti-war dissenters to the maximum penalties—or he could be unpredictably forgiving. Lenience to the downtrodden nearly led to his impeachment.
As the iron-fisted first commissioner of baseball from 1920 to 1944, Landis did whatever he deemed necessary to secure the best interests of baseball. His measures were harsh and often incon¬sistent to observers, but one of his least popular decisions—the banishment of third baseman Buck Weaver—may have been his most significant move in cleaning up and preserving the game.
Above all, Landis was a shrewd and crafty wielder of power. Coming from a talented family of politicians and journalists, he understood better than any of his contemporaries what was necessary to succeed in the modern world of media-created heroes.
From his memorable name to his unforgettable impact on baseball and the law, here the Landis legend is balanced by fact and finally preserved in extensive and intriguing detail for generations to come.
Says Publishers Weekly: This exhaustive study of baseball's first commissioner by the author of Minor Miracles includes details about its subject's life before baseball. . . . This scion of a rock-ribbed Midwestern Republican family served in Washington, D.C., in the administration of Democrat Grover Cleveland. But back in his adopted city of Chicago in 1905, Landis was appointed a federal district court judge by Teddy Roosevelt. Deeply involved in the progressive, trust-busting wing of the GOP, he came to national attention when he took on Standard Oil and its powerful head, John D. Rockefeller Sr. Though the multimillionaire tried to avoid a subpoena, Landis made him testify and assessed Standard Oil a $29-million fineAthe largest in U.S. history (though it was later reduced). During WWI he was an unabashed jingoist, convinced that all socialists and labor leaders who opposed the war were traitors; unfortunately for them, many were tried in Landis's court and drew inordinately long sentences. The so-called Black Sox scandal in the World Series of 1919, fixed by gamblers, led the owners to hire Landis as an almost omnipotent commissioner, a job he held until his death 24 years later. He did indeed restore the reputation for honesty of the national pastime, though he opposed night games and the farm system in vain. In this fascinating, diligently researched work, Pietrusza tackles a complex, important man and makes him his own."
Says Ralph Kiner: "[Judge and Jury] is outstanding. I have learned more about the history of baseball, true history, than from anything I have ever read or heard about. [It's] research and documentation clarifies so many of the personalities and events that took place before 'my time' in the game. Jacques Barzun's quote: 'Whoever would know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball' should be supplanted by [this] biography of Landis."
Says Fay Vincent: "Judge and Jury is first rate."
Says ESPN's Rob Neyer: "[I] was stunned at the amount of detail, accuracy, original research, and skilled interpretation of the facts."
Says Robert Creamer: "As a good biographer should, David Pietrusza has gone beyond the one-dimensional public image of Kenesaw M. Landis that too many people today accept as the graven truth. Landis, a nationally known Federal judge who became the first, all-powerful Commissioner of Baseball, was a complex man who had to deal with complex problems. In this meticulously researched book, Pietrusza with admirable objectivity depicts both the faults and virtues of one of the most important and most colorful public figures of the 20th Century."
Says Jerome Holtzman: "Finally, an objective biography of Baseball's first Commissioner. Beautifully done."
Says Publishers Weekly: "In this fascinating,diligently researched work,Pietrusza tackles a complex, important man and makes him his own."
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Meet the Author
Called one "of the best historians in the United States," "one of the great political historians of all time," and "the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns." David Pietrusza has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history. Critics have compared his work to that of H. L. Mencken, Theodore H. White, Edmund Morris, and Doris Kearnes Goodwin.
His "1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America," a study of the dramatic 1948 presidential campaign, is a selection of the History Book Club, the Book-of-the-Month Club, and the Literary Guild.
ForeWord Magazine designated his book "1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies" as among the best political biographies. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Caro has termed "1960" "terrific."
Pietrusza's "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents" received a Kirkus starred review, was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" title, and was named an alternate selection of the History Book Club. Historian Richard Norton Smith has listed "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents" as being among the best studies of presidential campaigns.
Pietrusza's biography of Arnold Rothstein entitled "Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series" was a finalist for the 2003 Edgar Award. Rothstein's audio version won an AUDIOFILE Earphones Award.
Pietrusza's "Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis," received the 1998 CASEY Award and was also a Finalist for the 1998 Seymour Medal and nominated for the NASSH Book Award.
Pietrusza collaborated with baseball legend Ted Williams on an autobiography called "Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures."
His books have been utilized as texts by such colleges as George Washington University, the City University of New York, the University at Buffalo, Baylor University, Bellevue College, the University of Illinois, the University of San Francisco, and Portland State College. "1920" has been part of the syllabus for the course "Congress, The Presidency & 21st Century Media" offered by C-SPAN, The Cable Center and the University of Denver. His talk on "Silent Cal's Almanack" is included in the curriculum for the C-SPAN Classroom initiative.
Pietrusza served as president (1993-97) of the Society for American Baseball Research
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