For his dedication to the great American pastime and his support for American Legion Baseball, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie K. Kuhn received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1978.
Presenting the honor, National Commander Robert C. Smith said Kuhn's recognition of American Legion Baseball and its contributions to the sport "span his career as a representative of the National League and his term as commissioner."
A member of Legion Post 342 in Freeport, N.Y., Kuhn accepted his award "in the name of the longtime cooperation between The American Legion and professional baseball." The Legion's program, which started in 1925, is a tremendous asset to professional ball, Kuhn said - in fact, 501 of 900 professional players that year had played in Legion Baseball.
Kuhn spent nearly 20 years as legal counsel for Major League Baseball owners before he was elected commissioner in 1969. He served for 15 years as the fifth commissioner, overseeing the beginning of free agency, with salaries nearly tripling. During his term, baseball grew from 10 teams in each league to multiple divisions, with playoffs before the World Series.
Among his more controversial decisions, Kuhn suspended Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. He banned Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from baseball for their casino affiliations.
Kuhn lost his support among owners as players made gains in salaries. His contract was not extended, ending his commissioner career in 1984. Kuhn died in 2007, at 80.
For more on Kuhn, click here (http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/mlb_history_people.jsp?story=com_bio_5).