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Thread: The Life of Bill Veeck

  1. #1
    59 W, 678 2/3 IP, GOAT Dry1313's Avatar
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    The Life of Bill Veeck

    This is an account of Bill Veeck I wrote a while ago...
    Bill Veeck was not only one of the greatest baseball minds of his time, but also a master owner who gave the fans what they desired and plenty of it. Veeck was born on September 9, 1914, in Chicago, Illinois. Veeck’s father was a famed sportswriter and was soon signed as the vice president of the Cubs by William Wrigley himself. Veeck grew up around many great baseball minds, even his father came up with the idea for interleague baseball almost 65 years before its institution. “If we don’t cut admission prices or make the game more attractive we certainly will be up against a further loss of patronage.” This type of revolutionary thinking passed on to Veeck and it showed with his many intelligent decisions. Veeck took many menial jobs for the club (vendor, grounds keeper, etc.), but his most noted work is planting the famous ivy upon the walls of Wrigley Field. After his father’s death he quit school and bought the Milwaukee Brewers of the fledgling American Association. He arrived almost completely broke into Milwaukee, and “he sold the club for a $275,000 profit after setting minor league attendance records and winning three pennants”. (Associated 22), (Macht)
    Veeck left and fought in the Marines in World War II. He lost a foot fighting, but nothing could curtail this influential man from losing his spirit. Said Veeck to Jerry Conzelman; “Of the team that opened for us a year ago everyone’s gone, including the manager, Grimm. We even sold our utility players”. Conzelman than replied “Did you sell the uniforms too?” to which Veeck said: “Just make us an offer”. This is an example of how upbeat Veeck was. Not many men have the heart to joke around after losing a foot in battle. (Daley 27)
    After passing up the opportunity to buy the Phillies in 1943, Veeck led a syndicate hoping to but the Cleveland Indians. Before the deal was finalized Veeck released a statement to the press which seems to be his mission statement: “I believe if baseball is dressed up a little it is more fun for everybody. At Milwaukee we always tried to have a good time as well as win ball games and we plan to do the same thing in Cleveland.” Veeck later succeeded in buying Cleveland for $2,000,000, a large sum at the time, but Veeck could see the potential. He included on his syndicate, which bought Cleveland, Bob Hope, the famous comedian. He believed it added a public flavor to the team. Veeck first exemplified his class when dealing with players and managers. Although he was not always free of fault, he refused to comment on the manager’s status and conferred with his Vice President, fellow owners and the manager himself. Immediately after buying the team, Veeck concerned himself with success, telling the media at his installing as owner and president that the team needed relief help and a hitting outfielder. He also made more immediate overhauls including allowing women free admission, changing the time of the games from 2:00 PM to 1:30 PM, and set up a deal to have games broadcast. Immediately after this he set out to League Park to see what his team looked like as the played the 1st place Red Sox. (Associated 28/1946) (Associated S1)
    Veeck immediately began spicing up the Indians games, averaging over 20,000 people, an outstanding figure. He added a tent where music is played for the enjoyment for fans, exploded fireworks from the bleachers, and even had vaudeville performances at the four corners of the diamond. In his 1st full season, Veeck instituted a 5 foot wall to allow for easier homeruns. He moved the dimensions of his pitcher’s park in almost 100 feet around the entire stadium. Not only did he have an attendance over 2 million, but he also acquired to Negro League stars. Larry Doby, 23 at the time, would more than pay back Veeck for making him the first African American player in the American League, performing at a very high standard for his entire Hall of Fame career. He also acquired Satchel Paige, the famous Negro League pitching star, whom, even at his advanced age of 42, helped the Indians to their pennant run. During his time with the Indians, Veeck made sure he had all of his pivotal players signed. This came under the spotlight in 1949 when the ace of his staff, Bob Feller, threatened to holdout unless he received a fair pay raise. Even in signing his players Veeck was sure to cause a ruckus. “Veeck put on quite a show when he signed his manager, Lou Boudreau, to a two-year contract, and if Bill is to live up to his reputation as the game’s No. 1 showman he is not apt to overlook a good tub-thumping performance when he brings Feller to terms. A ballplayer isn’t signed to a $75,000 contract or thereabouts in the casual manner one might show in hiring an office clerk.” Veeck, as was mentioned before, did make a few mistakes in player dealings though. When he set his mind to things he would achieve them at all costs. The biggest mistake he made was his pursuit and signing of an already committed Negro League pitcher. “Under baseball law a telegram is considered as binding as a signed document. However, as one baseball man pointed out last night, this can only apply to persons coming within the jurisdiction of organized baseball.” It is no apparent Veeck had no qualms over his pursuit of Artie Wilson (the aforementioned Negro League Pitcher), for he knew of this loophole in the law. Said Veeck: “So Weiss is going to protest to Chandler, eh? Well that’s swell because I’m planning to do a little protesting, too, to the Commissioner and Weiss is apt to find me there when he arrives. In fact, I’m not at all sure I’m not going to sue Weiss as well in stating my actions in signing Wilson are ‘unethical and in violation of baseball law.’” Even though Veeck slipped up, it is clear he had no inkling the Yankees were going to sign Wilson, or if he did, he didn’t care. In the end, Chandler voided the deal and Wilson signed with the Yankees. 5 days later the shortstop was purchased from the Yankees by Oakland of the Pacific Coast League. He never played in the majors for either team. (Associated 20) (Associated 28/1947) (Macht) (Drebinger S1) (Drebinger 13)
    “After selling the Indians for a large profit, he took over the moribund Browns, then in debt to the league for $300,000, a number about equal to a season's attendance.” But surprisingly the Browns’ attendance was just 518,000. Veeck lost big despite several attempts to grab attendance, including the hiring of 3”7 stunt midget Eddie Gaedel to play for his team. Gaedel wore the number 1/8 and walked on four pitches. Gaedel became good friends with Veeck and was often included in Veeck’s stunts. Another famous stunt pulled in St. Louis was allowing the crowd to manage the team. He used signs in situations asking the fans questions such as “Infield Back?” Whatever was the popular response would be the move executed by Zack Taylor, the manager. Veeck later decided to move his Browns to Baltimore, but his idea was vetoed by the American League. After his disappointing ploy, his ownership role became diminished, and he soon sold his shares. The Browns were moved the following year to Baltimore. (Macht)
    Veeck tried to buy several other teams, tried to shift his focus to basketball, but this too was to no avail. In 1959, he bought majority shares in the White Sox. Running the Sox is where Veeck would employ many of his most remembered brilliant schemes. Immediately after his group purchased Chicago, they made the 1959 World Series. They lost in 6 games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Veeck did have a hand in it though. “…midway in the 1959 season he made a deal for Ted Kluszewski, and it brought us the power we were lacking, and that made a huge difference on our way to the pennant.” In1959 he once again employed the help of Gaedel and 3 other midgets. Veeck had them dress up in space suits and float down in a helicopter much to the delight of the fans. He also had a Circus during the middle of a Yankees- White Sox doubleheader. In 1960 he unveiled his famous exploding scoreboard. The scoreboard would send many fireworks into the sky as well as sounding off several sirens every time a White Sox player hit a Homerun. According to his son, Mike Veeck, he discovered the idea “from a William Saroyan play. ‘The Time of Your Life,’ that he saw with my mother. Near the end of the play there is a pinball machine that goes off like crazy. Dad couldn’t stop thinking about it.” These were just his ideas his first time as owner of the Sox. When the box seat owners began to complain about the obstruction of their view by the vendors, Gaedel and several other midgets resurfaced as vendors. The complaining soon stopped. After being told he was too poor in health to continue running a baseball team, Veeck sold his shares. But in 1975, with the White Sox threatening to leave Chicago, he bought back into the team again. Veeck still had a couple tricks up his sleeve. His first creative idea was employed in 1976; Hot Weather Uniforms. He had the Sox players wear White pullover tops with Bermuda length navy shorts. The experiment only lasted 3 games. His last and arguably greatest idea was Disco Demolition Night in 1979. He had fans bring in their old disco records, throw them on the field, where they would be collected and burned before the game. Unfortunately, the record pile grew so large that the fire was just beginning when the umpires informed the White Sox they had forfeited. (Berkow D1) (Marazzi) (Macht)

    Obviously Veeck’s revolutionary thinking was not appreciated by the umpires or the administration, but his zany ways were loved by the fans. He was known to put cigarette butts in his wooden leg when there wasn’t an ash tray around. Veeck took flack not only from the anti aircraft gun that caused the amputation of his leg, but also for speaking his mind freely. He was one of the only baseball bosses to speak in favor of Curt Flood when he held out from baseball declaring its reserve clause to be unconstitutional and the equivalent of baseball slavery. He was thought by many to be crazy, but Hank Greenberg, Veeck’s close associate and friend, said this of Veeck shortly before his own death in 1986. “Bill brought baseball into the 20th century. Before Bill, baseball was just win or lose. But Bill made it fun to be at the ballpark.” Truer words have never been spoken of Veeck, and his influence brought joy to many different fans on many different days. (Berkow D1)

    1. Associated, Press. "Veeck Urges Inter-League Games To Revive Interest in Baseball." The New York Times 8/23 1933: 22.
    2. Daley, Arthur. "Listening to the Lobby Sitters." The New York Times 12/13 1944: 27.
    3. Associated, Press. "Veeck Group Sees Indians Sale Near." The New York Times 6/20 1946: 28.
    4. Associated, Press. "Veeck Buys the Indians; Price Up to $2,000,000." The New York Times 6/23 1946: S1.
    5. Associated, Press. "Veeck Puts on a Show." The New York Times 8/3 1946: 20.
    6. Associated, Press. "New 5-Foot Fence in Cleveland Stadium Ordered by Veeck as a Home-Run Booster." The New York Times 4/17 1947: 28.
    7. Drebinger, John. "Writers to Honor Boudreau Tonight." The New York Times 2/6 1949: S1.
    8. Drebinger, John. "Yanks Send Protest to Chandler on Veeck's Signing of Negro Aces." The New York Times 2/12 1949: 13.
    9. Berkow, Ira. "When Baseball's Circus Came to Town." The New York Times 10/19 2005: D1.
    10. Macht, Norman L. "Bill Veeck." 27 Oct. 2005 <>.
    11. Marazzi, Rich T. "Eddie Gaedel." . 27 Oct 2005 <>.

  2. #2
    59 W, 678 2/3 IP, GOAT Dry1313's Avatar
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    Damn I thought this was good and no posts on it...

  3. #3
    Token White Guy Dam8610's Avatar
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    White Sox

    It's a nice research paper, and I like the topic, but not many people are going to want to read something that long. My favorite idea of his is the exploding scoreboard, which the White Sox still have today. Several other teams also use the idea now too.

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  4. #4
    wat...??? HafDawg2003's Avatar
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    I'm going to cry. He is god.
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