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Banished: Benny Kauff

Career Paths
Marcus' Memoirs


New York Yankees 1912
Indianapolis Hoosiers 1914
Brooklyn Tip Tops 1915
New York Giants 1916-20

Currently, there are twenty men permanently banned from baseball; nineteen of them are due to gambling related offenses.  The other, Benny Kauff, was banished after he had been implicated in a stolen car ring.  Although he was acquitted in court, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis deemed Kauff "no longer a fit companion for other ballplayers," and placed the star outfielder on permanent suspension.

Benjamin Michael Kauff was born on January 5, 1890 in Pomeroy, OH.  He made his major league debut with the New York Yankees in 1912.  His first stint in New York was brief however, lasting just five games.

After a year in the minors, Kauff resurfaced with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the newly formed Federal League in 1914.  Known as the "Ty Cobb of the Federal League," the flashy outfielder dominated; leading the league in batting average (.370), on base percentage (.447), runs (120), hits (211), doubles (44), and stolen bases (75).  The Hoosiers, meanwhile, rode their star to a pennant.

In December, the league transferred it's best player to Brooklyn, where he caught the attention of Giants' manager John McGraw.  McGraw, in fact, enticed Kauff to jump to the Giants, but the move was blocked by league officials, and Kauff returned to Brooklyn.  Although the Tip-Tops finished in 7th place, Kauff again led the league in hitting (.342), on base percentage (.446), and steals (55).

Following the season, the league disbanded and Kauff joined the Giants on a permanent basis.  He struggled to adjust to the new league however, hitting just .264 in 1916.  He rebounded to hit .308 and steal 30 bases in 1917, which helped the Giants capture the NL pennant.  Kauff hit two home runs in the Giants 5-0 win in Game 4, but it wasn't enough, as the White Sox won the Series in six games.

The speedy outfielder appeared in just 67 games in the war-interrupted 1918 season, and he remained effective, hitting .315 in 270 at bats.  Kauff played his last full season in 1919, hitting .277 with 10 home runs in 135 games.  That December he was implicated in a stolen car ring and arrested along with his brother.

Awaiting trial, Kauff appeared in 55 games with the Giants in 1920, and posted a .274 average.  His name surfaced again that September at the bribery trial of teammate Hal Chase. Chase claimed that he tried to get Kauff and other teammates to join him in fixing games during the 1919 season.  Kauff however, wanted no part of it.  Chase was later banned from the game.

On May 13, 1921 a jury acquitted Kauff of any wrongdoing, but that didn't stop Commissioner Landis from banning the outfielder from the game.  Landis, who had absolute power in such matters, based the suspension on Kauff's "undesirable character and reputation."  He went on to say that the acquittal "was one of the worst miscarriages of justice that ever came under my observation."

Kauff turned to the courts to get his reinstatement, but his request for an injunction was denied.  At age 30, his promising career was over.  All told, Kauff posted a .311 average, compiled 961 hits, and stole 234 bases.  Benny Kauff died on November 17, 1961 in Columbus, OH at the age of 71.

-David Zingler, December 2003


Kauff @

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