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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read biography
ARC provided by NetGalley

Bill Veeck. For baseball fans the name draws to mind instantly the ill fated Disco Night and Eddie Gaedel, the shortest player to ever bat in a MLB game. But there is so much more to the story and a debt that baseball fans the world over owe to Bill Veeck. He was so much more than baseball. He was an innovator, a free spirit, and an...
Published on April 24, 2012 by Andy Shuping

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit slow-moving, but baseball historians will appreciate
Baseball lovers should have this book as part of their reference library. Paul Dickson shows how Bill Veeck's life touched so many others, including some of the biggest luminaries who played, managed, and ran the game over nearly five decades. If a maverick is a person who is unafraid to stand by their principles even when it means standing well outside conventional or...
Published 24 months ago by Dave Todaro


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read biography, April 24, 2012
By 
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
ARC provided by NetGalley

Bill Veeck. For baseball fans the name draws to mind instantly the ill fated Disco Night and Eddie Gaedel, the shortest player to ever bat in a MLB game. But there is so much more to the story and a debt that baseball fans the world over owe to Bill Veeck. He was so much more than baseball. He was an innovator, a free spirit, and an advocate for racial equality in a time when many baseball owners wanted nothing to do with it.

Relying on primary documents and more than a 100 interviews Paul Dickson builds a well crafted story that takes us on a journey through Bill's life. Paul begins with Bill Senior, Bill's father, to give us a sense of where the passion for baseball came from. Bill Senior was a self made man, with little education, but worked his way up to being president of the Chicago Cubs and Bill Jr. learned at his feet.

Working with his father Bill helped make Wrigley field the premier place to be, even introducing the famed ivy wall to the stadium. And that was just the start of his baseball career and a life well lived. He owned multiple teams, served in World War II--not as honorary member or stateside serving soldier, but in combat zones constantly asking to be sent to the front lines to help fight the war. He endured a leg injury that later led to amputation and multiple surgeries throughout his life that he endured without complaint. He signed the first black baseball player for the American League and pushed for racial equality throughout baseball. He walked with Martin Luther King Jr., he invented the exploding scoreboard, reached out to female fans and made them feel welcome, and even sat in the bleacher seats with the rest of the fans.

Paul does an excellent job of creating a readable story, one that is not overburdened with facts and figures, but brings Bill Veeck--the human being--to life. He touches upon the good and the bad in Bill's life--his regrets about his failed first marriage and his loneliness. More importantly he shows us that Bill was more than just a fan of baseball, but a fan of making people feel welcome. From inviting them to his home, taking players and people under his wing to help follow their dreams, to trying to challenge the world and helping it change.

The greatest compliment I can give this book is that I don't own many (if any) biographies, but I can't wait to buy this one. 5 out 5 stars
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Veeck Bio Has Legs, April 24, 2012
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
If the goal of a biography is to give a sense of the life as it was lived, then Paul Dickson's BILL VEECK is a grand success. Not only does it bring the great man to life (and demonstrate why he really was great), it puts him in the context of his own development and his own times. The famous -- or notorious -- events are put in proper perspective, and there's a wealth of wonderful "Who knew?" details. You don't need to be a baseball fan to be entertained and enlightened by Dickson's life of Bill Veeck, but if you are one, you need to get this book. And or if you know anyone in or from Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, or Arizona (among other places), get it as a gift. They'll be amazed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Surprising - Even BB Mavens Don't Know These Stories, April 24, 2012
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This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
"Baseball's Greatest Maverick" is part sociology, part psychology, part history -- and all fascinating baseball about the game's most intuitive and clever owner. Even if you think you know about baseball and Bill Veeck, you will be surprised at the depth of research into the startling truths why baseball took so long to be integrated and other dinosaur-like behavior towards players and fans. If only Veeck's huge box of ideas had survived. Let's hope Mike Veeck inherited it.
Paul Dickson has done a beautiful job writing and deeply researching this engrossing tale of a true American icon. It is a study of a man of true character and conviction, whose unerring instincts put him on the fan's side, always. Buy this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Veeck--Champion of the Little Guy, May 4, 2012
By 
Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" (Ishpeming, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
A solid five stars to author Paul Dickson who has done a masterful job in capturing the life of former baseball owner Bill Veeck. The liberal-minded Veeck enjoyed tweaking the nose of his fellow stuffed shirt conservative baseball owners who felt Veeck made a travesty of the game with his wild ideas. Veeck held the radical belief that nothing is owed to him as an owner, and it was his job to promote his product (namely the team) to encourage fans to come out to the ball park. To merely open the gates and expect the fans to come rushing up to the turnstiles was simply not enough. Veeck was criticized by his fraternity brother owners for holding, what they perceived as circus-like activities that detracted from the "dignity" of the game. Veeck realized that the best promotion is a winning team, but a winning team plus promotions to make the fans feel welcome and appreciated are an added incentive to bring fans out to the park.

Bill Veeck brought the Cleveland Indians its last World Championship in 1948 and signed Larry Doby, the first African-American in the American League. From there he moved to the hapless St. Louis Browns where he is best remembered for sending the midget Eddie Gaedel up to bat on August 19, 1951, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Veeck's next stop was the Chicago White Sox where his Go-Go Sox won the 1959 American League pennant. He once again bought the Pale Hose in the 1970s which most likely prevented their moving to Seattle. He also spent time horsing around the Suffolk Downs race track in the Boston area.

Veeck was a man ahead of his times. Several of the ideas he championed were eventually adopted by major league baseball such as names on the backs of uniforms, inter-league play, Ladies Day, exploding scoreboards, and promoting a family atmosphere at the ball park.

I did find two minor errors in the book. The author refers to baseball acrobat Jackie Price who performed on-field tricks for Bill Veeck's team as "Charlie" Price. In addition on page 191 he refers to August 20th as the day Veeck sent midget Eddie Gaedel up to bat. Author Dickson has the correct date of August 19th one other place in the book in addition to in the section showing photos. However, these are minor errors and in no way detract from the book.

Fans identified with Veeck because they saw him as one of them, and that he sincerely cared about them. The love was mutual. Author Gerald Eskenazi wrote a previous enjoyable biography of Bill Veeck, and author Paul Dickson has provided us with a more thorough edition of this amazing man who enjoyed sharing his love of baseball with everyone else. Bill Veeck had a passionate love for reading books, and if you lived through the Bill Veeck era you really need this book in your library, and if you didn't, buy the book anyway. While your at it give yourself a treat and pick up a copy of ""Veeck as in Wreck" and "The Hustler's Handbook" as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Home Run!, April 24, 2012
By 
RM COHEN (NEW YORK, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson is a Dickesonian delight! If you enjoyed Dickson's Baseball Is... and The Unwritten Rules of Baseball, this book will knock you out! Paul Dickson has written a deliciously entertaining book on the life of the most original and beguiling figure ever to grace the sport of baseball. It would behoove today's baseball executives and front office personnel to buy this book, read this book and then take a page out of it. Veeck can teach them... humanity.

As a student of Bill Veeck, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Veeck. I was wrong. This is not the usual Eddie Gaedel and Demolition Derby theatrics but baseball in the context of the history of our country as seen from the other side of the color bar. Paige, Landis, Doby, Robeson... the research is stunning! Paul Dickson brings us into the room with Veeck and pours us a cocktail!

Personally, I was most pleased to read about one of the greatest baseball scandals, (not called steroids), of the 20th Century. That being the sullying of Bill Veeck's good name. Dickson does a fine job unraveling the controversy brought up by some rather uneducated (dare I say, loathes) who in the name of celebrity and expediency called Bill Veeck, a liar. Dickson documents it all and let's it rip! Dickson shows us Veeck as he was, an unrepentant lover of life who derived great joy by making the baseball establishment - insane. Veeck did it with grace, brains, language and more integrity then we will ever hope to see again. Bill Veeck was indeed not only Baseball's Greatest Maverick, but the greatest maverick of all! Kudos to Paul Dickson for a job well-done!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great biography of an inspiring baseball man, May 24, 2012
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Today's baseball fans probably know Bill Veeck for two publicity stunts -- if they know him at all. Veeck famously signed three-foot, seven-inch tall Eddie Gaedel for one plate appearance for his St. Louis Browns. Wearing "1/8" on his jersey, Gaedel walked on four straight pitches. Veeck's most notorious act was his approval of his son Mike's idea for Disco Demolition Night in 1979. Tickets for a game between Veeck's Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers were only 98 cents for fans who brought a disco record to be destroyed. It's hard to know whether the cheap ducats, the prospect of a huge fire, or the chance to see disco destroyed was the primary draw, but approximately 60,000 people flooded Comiskey Park and started hurling records and lighting fires.

In Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick, Paul Dickson shows that Bill Veeck was much more than a gifted and ambitious showman. The biography explains the formative role its subject played in key aspects of baseball's progress in the 20th century. Dickson's tale of baseball from World War II to the 1980s shows Veeck at the vanguard of several major developments. Veeck spurred the integration of the American League, making Larry Doby the first African-American to play in the junior circuit. Veeck cut his baseball teeth running concessions at Wrigley Field, where his success promoted him to positions overseeing other aspects of the spectator experience. Ballpark amenities we take for granted come from Veeck's instincts for improving fan comfort. Mirrors in the ladies room are now standard, for instance, and fans who catch foul balls are no longer obligated to return them to the club. It is easier to tell the players without a scorecard, thanks to Veeck's idea to have player names on the back of the jerseys. Veeck was known as a player's owner, much to the chagrin of his peers. Curtis Flood, in his challenge to baseball's reserve clause, had Veeck's full and early support.

Dickson shows Veeck as a creative and industrious businessman, whose gregarious nature and indomitable spirit ingratiated him with players, fans, and media, if not his fellow owners who bristled at some of his antics. Veeck's habit of watching games from the bleachers made him accessible to fans, who loved him. Many other owners, including the Yankees and Red Sox executives, hated Veeck's style. Veeck's devotion to his work damaged his home life, leading to divorce from his first wife. His second, Mary Frances, tolerated and moderated Veeck and was, according to Bob Feller, "the best thing that ever happened to Veeck." Those who worked for him considered him fair and a good boss, likely as a result of what Mary Frances called one of his twelve commandments. #5: "In your hiring, be color-blind, gender-blind, age- and experience-blind. You never work for Bill Veeck. You work with him." Veeck did right by his players and his baseball staff. For instance, when Veeck fired his team's manager, Bob Lemon, in the middle of the 1978 season, the next night Lemon accepted Veeck's invitation for drinks at his house.

Veeck's father, William Sr., instilled in his son the importance of equal treatment for all. Veeck Sr. was a skilled baseball executive (and was President of the Chicago Cubs from 1919 until his death in 1933) and Jr. was fond of relating the moment his father showed him the take from the day's game and explained that one couldn't tell from the cash the race of the patrons. Along with Branch Rickey, Veeck was a pioneer of the integration of the major leagues. Rickey is portrayed as a bit of a carpetbagger, raiding the Negro Leagues without giving any compensation to the team. In contrast, Veeck made sure to pay the Newark Eagles for Larry Doby's contract (Veeck intended to pay $10,000, but Eagles owner Effa Manley made him up the offer to $15,000). Doby signed his major league contract for the Cleveland Indians in July 1947, integrating the American League eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers. In 1948, Veeck signed Satchel Paige (always calling him by his given name, Leroy) despite Paige's age (41). Paige and Doby played key roles in the Indians' 1948 World Series victory over the Boston Braves. Veeck often couched apparent social progressivism in competitive terms, looking for every possible edge -- on the field or at the box office. African-American fans made up a significant portion of the crowds wherever the integrated Cleveland nine played.

Despite the economic benefits he enjoyed from integration, Veeck's commitment to equality was real. Veeck joined the NAACP after moving to Cleveland to take over the Indians, and he soon had African-Americans in every position of his organization, from front-office staff to vendors to players. Veeck marched in the funeral procession of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta in 1968 and when he died in 1985 tributes came from leaders around the country including Rev. Jesse Jackson and President Ronald Reagan.

I did not know that Bill Veeck had a wooden leg. Veeck enlisted in the Marines in the fall of 1943. He spent three months of the following spring and summer on Bougainville Island where an artillery gun he was loading recoiled and badly injured his right foot. Despite his more than ten surgeries, including several amputations, Veeck's family recalls his stoicism in the face of what must have been extreme pain. He used humor to deflect sympathy. He built an ashtray into his wooden leg, and when he fell in an airport and was asked if he needed a doctor, he replied "it's the wooden leg - get me a carpenter!"

After reading Paul Dickson's well-paced and inspiring biography of Bill Veeck, I believe Veeck is among the top five most important people in the history of Major League Baseball, non-player division. George Steinbrenner, Branch Rickey, Marvin Miller, and Judge Kennesaw Landis would be contenders, but Veeck's decades of innovation and progress cement his position in the top tier.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary -- a biography that reads like a novel, April 24, 2012
By 
Michael Tolaydo (St. Mary's City, MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Paul Dickson not only captures the man, but writes about Bill Veek in such a way that the reader feels he knows him. A must for every baseball fan, and in my opinion, a must for every American interested in how innovative business practices made it the national sport.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive account of a man whose contributions to modern-day baseball cannot be minimized, July 16, 2012
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Full disclosure demands I inform readers that in 1975, I asked Bill Veeck for a job. I was a young attorney, and Veeck had just begun his second tour as owner of my beloved Chicago White Sox. I wrote a letter directly to him asking for a job, any job at all in baseball. A few days later, I received a handwritten letter. Essentially, Veeck suggested to me that I was crazy to seek employment in baseball when I already had a job as an attorney. I was disappointed, but the letter was so warm and genuine that I was let down very nicely. I wish I still had that letter.

Paul Dickson's BILL VEECK: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is a definitive account of a man whose contributions to modern-day baseball cannot be minimized in any fashion. Anyone attending a baseball game in America may not realize that much of what they view and experience in contemporary stadiums were ideas hatched in the mind of Bill Veeck. Whether it is clean bathrooms, ticket promotions, quality food, fireworks, names on the backs of uniforms, or dozens of other sights and sounds at the ballpark, Veeck was the man who introduced those ideas to major league baseball. And he often did so despite opposition from fellow major league owners who belittled his ideas as contrary to baseball tradition.

A quality biography has many requirements. It cannot fawn over its subject, but should capture a sense and flavor of the times beyond the life and times of the person. In addition, it should be well-written. Dickson easily accomplishes these tasks in a book that's elegant in its simple but precise language. He is not reluctant to point out Veeck's foibles along with his strengths. Most importantly, he has captured the era of major league baseball when the game changed dramatically due to two cataclysmic events: integration and the death of the reserve clause.

While Branch Rickey is correctly credited with the signing of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American in baseball, Veeck was as vigorous as Rickey in integrating major league baseball. He would sign Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League. Even before then, he had a plan to purchase the Philadelphia Phillies and have a full roster of African-American players. The deal fell through when National League owners made certain that another buyer would be found for the Phillies.

For Veeck, integration was in keeping with his love for the common man and his belief in equal justice. He was committed to these goals in all aspects of his life. He treated people, fans and employees as human beings regardless of their standing in life. Many baseball owners, scions of industry and wealth, looked down on Veeck as a clown. But he knew more about baseball than the other American League owners combined. He would publicly berate the owners for their greed and lack of respect for fans. In return, any Veeck proposal was almost immediately rejected; the owners did not care that his ideas improved the game.

We will never see baseball as it existed in Veeck's era. When he purchased the Cleveland Indians in the late 1940s, he paid $1.5 million for the entire franchise. He later sold the team for a profit for his investors. Interestingly, he devised methods for increasing tax advantages for baseball franchises. The owners who disdained him were not reluctant to use his tax ideas for their personal financial benefit.

BILL VEECK is as comfortable a read as a good seat in the bleachers along with a hot dog and beer. Not, of course, at the contemporary price of $7.50 for ale and $5.00 for a frankfurter, but at the comfortable price of a bygone era. For those who grew up in a time when a trip to the ballpark was an inexpensive and enjoyable event, this is a wonderful remembrance. While those days are now forever gone, they live on in the pages of Dickson's masterful biography.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An agent of change and a champion of the little guy, July 7, 2012
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This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Think of Bill Veeck, owner of three different major league baseball teams, and you think of a pinch-hitting midget, giveaways galore, special nights, exploring scoreboards, short pants uniforms and Disco Demolition Night. He made fans want to come to the ballpark. But Veeck was much more than the "P.T. Barnum of Baseball," a term his son Mike says critics liked to use when they wanted to paint him as a buffoon.

Hank Greenberg said, "Veeck brought baseball into the 21st century." He brought change to both the business and conscience of baseball. As owner of the Cleveland Indians, he signed Larry Doby in 1947, breaking the color barrier in the American League, something other owners never seemed to forgive him for. He also signed 42-year-old rookie Satchel Paige in 1948. Far from a mere publicity stunt, Paige tossed two shutouts in his first three starts while attracting 201,000 fans. He compiled a scoreless streak of 23.1 innings as he went 6-1 and helped the Indians to the World Series.

Veeck owned the Cleveland Indians from 1946-49, the St. Louis Browns from 1951-53 and the Chicago White Sox twice, from 1959-61 and 1975-1981. When he purchased the Indians in 1946, the club had no radio broadcasts, no Ladies Day, didn't post NL scores and had no telephone service for fans wishing to reserve tickets. He changed all that. In 1946, the Indians set a season attendance record of 2.6 million, which stood until the Los Angeles Dodgers topped it in 1962. Before he purchased the White Sox in 1975, he tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Washington Senators and the Baltimore Orioles.

As an owner, Veeck was always challenging the status quo, which made him extremely unpopular with the other owners. Increasing fans' happiness and having fun were his sacraments. He believed his common touch (he preferred to sit in the bleachers among the fans) was the secret of his success. He once went down a coal mine to talk to coal miners about the St. Louis Browns' prospects. He seldom refused to speak to any group at any place or any time. Veeck was the most fan friendly owner ever.

Author Paul Dickson says Veeck attracted adjectives like other people attracted mosquitoes. He was described as `quick-witted, uninhibited, irreverent, quick to anger, stubborn and prone to hyperbole."

Veeck, who had a wooden leg, read a book a day, could drank a beer a minute and smoked 4 to 5 packs of cigarettes a day. As a Marine in World War II, he suffered an ulcer in his right leg that became infected. He had the leg amputated below the knee and eventually above the knee. He endured 32 operations over the years, but never complained. Veeck, who had been in failing health for years, died in 1985 at the age of 71. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. His plaque describes him as "A champion of the little guy."

In the book's appendix, Dickson addresses the question of whether Veeck lied about his plan to purchase the 1943 Phillies and stock the team with Negro League players. He makes a strong case that was in deed his plan. It is one of the most interesting chapters in the book.

Veeck was a reporter's dream, seldom turning down an interview. He's probably one of the most interviewed people in the history of baseball. Dickson does a splendid job of bringing everything together and painting an in-depth portray of one of baseball's most influential figures. Baseball fans, young and old, should be sure to read this biography.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sports biography, May 2, 2012
By 
William B. Mead (Bethesda, Md. USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Hardcover)
Paul Dickson of THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY and other fine stories about our great game, has given us a biography so warm, informative and enthralling as to trump the genre. Did you know that gamblers may have bought the outcome of the World Series of l918, as well as that of 1919? Did you know that Bill Veeck's saddest moment was when he learned that he didn't make Richard Nixon's enemies list? Did you know that Veeck, in an episode called untrue by less avid historians, was on the brink of buying the Philadelphia Phillies and filling the roster with blacks--BEFORE Jackie Robinson came along? Did you know that Veeck rolled the dice in buying the woebegone St. Louis Browns, betting that the Cardinals would move to Texas (they almost did!)? On we go--a warm and wonderful memoir of the peg-legged man who did his best to save baseball from boredom.

--William B. Mead, author of six baseball history books.
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Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick
Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson (Hardcover - April 24, 2012)
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