With the baseball season winding down, a few thoughts about Bill Veeck.

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On Wednesday night, a few of us got together to eat nachos, drink beer and maybe even watch a few innings of the second game in this year’s World Series.

Somehow Bill Veeck’s name came up.

Here are the bare facts.

In the 1980s, in the bleachers (Wrigley Field).

William Louis Veeck Jr. (/ˈvɛk/; February 9, 1914 – January 2, 1986), also known as “Sport Shirt”, was an American Major League Baseball franchise owner and promoter. Veeck was at various times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. As owner and team president of the Indians in 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby, thus beginning the integration of the American League, and the following year won a World Series title as Cleveland’s owner/president.

Veeck was the last owner to purchase a baseball franchise without an independent fortune, and is responsible for many innovations and contributions to baseball.

Finding it hard to financially compete, Veeck retired after the 1980 Chicago White Sox season. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Veeck’s most famous stunt came when he sent a little person to bat for the St. Louis Browns.



A Can of Beer, a Slice of Cake—and Thou, Eddie Gaedel

(An excerpt from Veeck—As In Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck, with Ed Linn)

In 1951, in a moment of madness, I became owner and operator of a collection of old rags and tags known to baseball historians as the St. Louis Browns.

The Browns, according to reputable anthropologists, rank in the annals of baseball a step or two ahead of Cro-Magnon man. One thing should be made clear. A typical Brownie was more than four feet tall. Except, of course, for Eddie Gaedel, who was 3’7″ and weighed 65 lbs. Eddie gave the Browns their only distinction. He was, by golly, the best darn midget who ever played big-league ball. He was also the only one.

Veeck’s 1976 White Sox wore shorts in three games, and won two of them.

And who can ever forget Disco Demolition Night?



BASEBALL: The Night Disco Went Up in Smoke
, by Joe Lapointe (New York Times)

In the warm air that night, baseball’s routine and soothing sounds mixed with the tribal cadence of off-color chanting, the drifting scent of marijuana and the sight of vinyl records descending through the summer dusk like Frisbees.

“They would slice around you and stick in the ground,” Rusty Staub said. “It wasn’t just one, it was many. Oh, God almighty, I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life. I begged the guys to put on their batting helmets.”

Staub was the player representative for the Detroit Tigers when they visited the Chicago White Sox on Disco Demolition Night, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park. Few sports promotions ever went so awry; few are remembered as well. Some in charge that night still defend it …

I read Veeck’s venerable autobiography while still in high school; after all, it was written in 1962. My guess it it’s still worth the time. Baseball has changed in mind-numbing ways since Veeck’s heyday. To me, his wisdom is timeless.

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