on July 8, 1998
The book takes you through the career of Bill Veeck, owner and operator of many baseball teams over a fifty-year period. If you truly love baseball, you want to read it.
Why? Easy enough--Bill loved baseball, so much so that he never sat in fancy box seats at games but preferred to join the fans in the bleachers. He is hilarious, as in sidesplitting; he has many stories to tell about the funnier incidents he's been involved in. And when you run a team Veeck style, you have a lot of funny incidents.
But the book is not just a compilation of Veeck buffoonery; he has strong feelings on many topics and expresses them with clarity and frankness. There are tributes to magnificent performances and courageous actions throughout the book. When you finish it, if you love the game, you wish only that you could have been an office staff person or groundskeeper following Bill through his career. You could never possibly have been bored (or made much money).
This book is in the class of _Ball Four_--a defining work that gives real insight into real baseball. To read it is to delight in the game.
As a partner, enough credit is not given Ed Linn. I don't know how Ed does it, but any book written with him will be entertaining, well written, and will above all preserve the main figure's personal style. I believe it is Ed's talent that takes the reminisces of sports figures and makes them a good read, and this deserves your appreciation and respect.
The two things you need to know before you buy "Veeck -- As In Wreck" -- and you will buy this book, you must, if you've ever bought any professional sports bio before -- are the names Veeck and Linn.
Bill Veeck you know from reputation -- the wacky promoter who invented everything from Ladies' Day to Disco Demolition Night. The man owned several baseball franchises (including the Chicago White Sox twice, for some reason), and was known as a both a promotional genius and a shrewd financier.
As for Ed Linn... well, Linn was also the ghostwriter for another fantastic, edgy, opinionated baseball book, Leo Durocher's "Nice Guys Finish Last". Not surprisingly, "Veeck" reads a lot like the Durocher tome (and it came first, too!). On every page here you'll find a funny anecdote, a scary bit of prescience, and a unique look at an otherwise-beloved icon. With Veeck's memory and Linn's acid pen, this book is quite hard to put down. Or to pick up, for that matter.
Sports bios tend to hold back these days, let's face it. They're not as long and not as insightful as the Linn books. And the gift of time has helped ripen these pages. When Veeck talks about baseball's financial need to institute interleague play -- writing from 1961 -- you know this man saw around a few decades' worth of corners. When he takes the Yankees to task for failing to capitalize on Roger Maris's pursuit of the Babe Ruth home run record, and notes that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event, he's right -- so baseball got it right in '98, when McGwire came to town, and when the record fell yet again in '01, hardly anyone noticed.
In the meantime you'll laugh at the sad fates of Bobo Holloman and Frank Saucier, the latter being the only ballplayer ever to be removed from a game for a midget. You'll be intrigued by Veeck's take on Larry Doby, and by his bitter retorts at Del Webb, then-owner of the hated behemoth Yankees. And you'll marvel at just how little has really changed in baseball since Veeck was retired. Owners plotting franchise shifts in shady back-room deals (Montreal, Florida. Florida, Boston). Owners doing everything to baseball except what really benefits the sport (It's a tie in Milwaukee!). Veeck lamenting not the high price of talent but rather the high price of mediocrity (how much is Colorado paying for Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton?)...
Just about the only highlight not covered is the sight of White Sox outfielder Chet Lemon wearing shorts. One of the few Bill Veeck innovations that did not catch on, and aren't we all better off...
on August 20, 2000
A wonderful slice of baseball history as seen from the consumate maverick of baseball. Veeck takes you on a journey from his beginnings listenning to John McGraw and his dad William Veeck Sr. shoot the breeze about baseball up until his purchase of the White Sox for the second time in 1975. Along the way you are introduced to those you may have never knew (Gene Bearden and Harry Grabiner), those you always knew (Eddie Gaedel, Satchel Paige and Lou Boudreau) and those you though you knew (Ford Frick, Del Webb and Charles Comiskey). The chapters about Veeck's ownership of the St. Louis Browns and baseball's fight about its disposition are alone worth the price of the book. I'd give the book five stars because it is well written and entertaining, but I suspect some of his stories are embellished in his favor. But you have to expect that in any autobiography. So many of today's ideas have Veeck written all over them, most notably interleague play and exploding scoreboards. One final note: keep a baseball encyclodedia next to you when you read this one. It comes in handy when the obscure names come flying, and if you feel "ole Willie" is telling a tall one.
on January 21, 2001
Veeck - As In Wreck is the wild and wonderful autobiography of baseball club owner Bill Veeck. Mr. Veeck, who has been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, was of a rare breed: a baseball owner who actually had a clue. Of course, that meant that during his life he was a pariah among owners. The book covers his life from childhood to the first time he sold the Chicago White Sox, in the early 1960s. It's loaded with screamingly funny anecdotes. And although the book was co-authored with Ed Linn, Veeck could have written the book by himself: he was quite literate, and the book is strewn with literary and cultural references. It's a joy to read, and re-read. I can't say enough good things about it.
on January 17, 2004
This book is considered a classic because of the great inside information and the "smack 'em in the face" comments from Bill Veeck, the one-time owner of the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns and the two-time owner of the Chicago White Sox. Veeck pulles no punches in discussing his views on the powers in baseball, including his favorite punching bag, the New York Yankees. Veeck is also very entertaining in describing his relationships with some great characters of the game. I really enjoyed this book.
on January 14, 2009
When John McCain ran for President in 2008 as a maverick, he would have been well advised to read this very autobiography to find how a real maverick operates. Veeck did it with a cheerful outlook, without rancor or bitterness, and with an impish sense of humor. He was truly a man of the people.
I remember Veeck as a White Sox in the late 1970's, when he bought the team, and against all odds, fielded the South Side Hitmen and made a run for the pennant with no defense or pitching. Veeck brought innovation and fun to Comiskey Park, and was no newcomer to baseball by then. Had he been a racecar driver, he would have been on the 480th lap of the Indy 500. Veeck, who lost a leg due to a combat wound, who was a four pack a day smoker, who rarely slept more than three hours a night had a curious, intelligent and unstoppable mind.
In reading his thoughts, I was struck by the prescient content of his thoughts on baseball. In 1962, he proposed revenue sharing for visiting teams on television revenues, predicting that small market teams would not be able to compete in the future. He was the first owner who believed expansion would bestow increased popularity on baseball. And, in immortal words, said that it was not the price of superstardom that would haunt payrolls, but the price of mediocrity.
His energy was astounding. He turned a profit in Milwaukee (pre-Braves and Brewers) by sheer hustle, promotion, and horse trademanship. He brought a world Series to Cleveland by know how, and made himself a beloved figure in that great town.
But through it all, there is his prevailing love for baseball, and the loyalty, admiration and love for his second wife. This is an inspiring story about an original man.
on August 19, 2005
They just don't make baseball owners like Bill Veeck anymore, and it is our loss. Maverick, visionary, and showman extraordinaire; Bill had a ball setting baseball's staid establishment on its ear with his unorthodox tactics, mischievous spirit, and wild promotions. He was an every-man who never lost the common touch, and believed that to be the secret of his success. His promotions and gimmicks bedeviled and enraged his fellow owners and the purists within the mort bound baseball establishment while they delighted the fans who Bill had a knack for attracting anywhere he went.
In this fascinating, fun, romp of an autobiography, Veeck showed that his knack for telling stories was as well honed as his knack for whacky promotions. Working with the outstanding Ed Linn (who also co-wrote Leo Duroucher's autobiography `Nice Guys Finish Last') Veeck served up his life's tale one entertaining story after another. Whether writing about sending a midget to pinch hit in a ball game, planting the ivy in Wrigley Field as a young man, creating the first exploding scoreboard, creatively financing and finagling ownership deals, or feuding with fellow owners, Veeck's stories are hits, every one.
If you love baseball, mavericks, or showmen, you can't go wrong with this one - highly recommended.
on April 22, 2003
I literally could not put this book down from start to finish. Whether you like baseball, dislike the Yankees, or just enjoy rooting for the one guy who could have saved baseball from the financial and legal disasters of the past 50 years, this book will be one of the best you have ever read.
on February 4, 2009
Bill Veeck was a true maverick before that term got tossed around by crazed hockey moms/ vp wannabee's. Anyway... the story of this man who was known for sending a midget to bat in the majors and, later in life, the disco demolition fiasco in Chicago, was more than those events. He was the kind of guy who "got it" about pro sports. He knew that the fan should come first and that this should be fun. Aftert reading this, you'll want to give the rest of the owners, agents and prima donna athletes a copy in hope that they too will "see the light". The book is his autobiography of sorts that tells more about his philosophy about the game and business than it does about the facts of his life. A fun read, essential for baseball fans, about the coolest owner ever. A hall of fame read, from a hall of famer.
on December 20, 2015
I am close to finishing this book, and must say that it is a must-read for any fan of the game. I had always heard that this book was a classic, and I can absolutely attest that it is. Mr. Veeck's first hand view and insights are amazing. He was so much more than a showman, which is illustrated in this well-written book. There was truly a method to his madness. Bill Veeck understood his fan base by interacting directly with his fans. I loved the fact that he sat with the fans in the stands rather than in a private box or away from the field of play. His ideas were revolutionary and far-ahead of his fellow club owners, and so many have become intregal parts of baseball's culture and financial structure (e.g., exploding scoreboards; giving to local charities; revenue sharing). Not all of his ideas worked, but he cared and was always trying to find ways to bring people to his team's games and have a truly fun time at the ballpark. That is missing today with all the high priced seating and expensive foods. I love the game of baseball, but have observed that it has become increasingly unrelatable to the average fan with the high priced seating, some of which is policed by security and is exclusive and corded off. Also, the food choices, while much improved, are incredibly expensive (e.g,, $20 sandwiches; $7 ice cream cones/helmet cups; $8 sodas; $6 bag of peanuts). Mr. Veeck was truly a maverick and it's a shame that he kept being run out of baseball by the other owners and Commissioners who saw him as more trouble instead of genuinely considering his ideas for the greater good of the game. I had the good fortune too of writing to Mr. Veeck when his owned the White Sox in the 1970s, and he graciously wrote me back a personal note, which I still have today.