WHO REMEMBERS…….. BILL VEECK – BASEBALL’S MASTER SHOWMAN


This is Chapter Three in a developing series titled “Who Remembers…..” that aims to highlight colorful and influential personalities in the game of baseball.

WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE PROFILED NEXT…………..

Bill Veeck never had an at bat in the big leagues. Bill Veeck never even wore a major league uniform.  And yet,image he carved out a niche in the game that (arguably) will never be matched. He was called a “Master Showman” and the title was not always used as a compliment. The P.T. Barnum of baseball – the man who seemingly would do anything to get fans to attend his team’s games and even more insure that they would enjoy themselves once they did. Now, years later when baseball owners are largely a staid and stoic lot, we can look back on the legacy of a man whose biography was titled “Veeck As In Wreck”, and in spite of his critics, earned himself a plaque in the Baseball Hall Of Fame………

Bill Veeck believed with his heart and soul that above all else baseball is entertainment, and that as such imagefans were looking for an outlet to escape from the routine of everyday life. This came easy to him because he was a baseball fan too. Like most men of his generation- World War II’s Greatest Generation according to Tom Brokaw – he came up the hard way even losing a leg while fighting in the war. He bought teams, sold teams, and lost teams. But as one of those larger than life characters, he always left his mark as one of the most unforgettable men who ever came through town.

Consider just the following – and all of this really happened…….

***** He once put his manager in a rocking chair next to the dugout and distributed signs to all fans at the game so they could “vote” on what strategies to use during the game. The White Sox won that day 5-3.

*****Satchel Paige and Bill Veeck Cleveland 1949 Believing that fans are the most important part of the game, he once distributed 50,000 nuts and bolts to all who attended the game 

***** He hired a clown, Max Patkin, to be coach and put his Cleveland Indians’ games on the radio. Veeck also staged a ‘Good Old Joe Earley Night’ for a fan who complained that the Indians were honoring everyone except the average Joe.

***** Now a fixture at nearly every ballpark and among his many “firsts” he installed baseball’s first “exploding scoreboard” at Comiskey Park and added players’ names to their uniforms.

***** He signed Negro League legend Satchel Paige (upper left), making Paige the oldest rookie in major league history at the tender age of 42.

***** He signed Minnie Minoso to two one day contracts in two successive decades (after his “retirement”) making this fan favorite the only player to play in a game over four decades.

***** imageAnd get this one……..he once held a promotion called Disco Demolition Night when hundreds of records (that’s what CD’s were called then) were placed on the field between games of a doubleheader (they had those too) and then ceremoniously blown up. Frenzied fans rushed on to the field causing enough damage that the second game had to be forfeited by the White Sox. So maybe occasionally he went to far?……uh…not so fast because………

***** On Aug. 19, 1951, a 3 foot 7 inch man named Eddie Gaedel walked to the plate as a pinch hitter for the Browns. Wearing the uniform number “1/8,” Gaedel used his miniscule strike zone to draw a walk on four pitches. He wasimage promptly replaced for a pinch runner at first base, completing his day as the shortest man to ever play in the major leagues. The next day, American League president Will Harridge denounced the stunt as a mockery of the game and voided Gaedel’s contract.

Poor health forced Veeck to sell the White Sox in 1961, but he returned to the owner’s box at Comiskey in 1975. In his elder years, Veeck was as active as ever. He conducted four trades in a hotel lobby, in full view of the public. He was the man who encouraged announcer Harry Caray, a future imageFord C. Frick Award winner, to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the Chicago faithful, a tradition that is alive even today.

As mentioned before, Bill Veeck was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Love him or hate him, you certainly couldn’t ignore him. 

SOURCES AND CREDITS:

Bill Veeck Baseball Hall of Fame      Disco Demolition Night Wikipedia

Cover Photo.  Sports Illustrated.          

Bill Veeck – Master Promoter      Westside Toastmasters

If you missed the previous chapters, you can find them here…….

                           Bill “Spaceman” Lee.                      Rocky Colavito

One response to “WHO REMEMBERS…….. BILL VEECK – BASEBALL’S MASTER SHOWMAN

  1. Pingback: THE ENTIRE “WHO REMEMBERS” SERIES | REFLECTIONS ON BASEBALL

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