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Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick Hardcover – April 24, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Veeck was a one of a kind whose impact reached beyond the ballpark, into the very fiber of 20th-century America. Dickson has captured it all in entertaining fashion.” ―James Bailey, Baseball America

“Paul Dickson's excellent biography Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is among the few great biographies set in sports. Beyond that it is the story of a singular fellow whose energy, determination, wit, and powerful commitment to fairness spiced with an unquenchable sense of the absurd enabled him to live an exceptionally full and passionate life.” ―Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe

“In this crisply written, admiring but never fawning chronicle, Dickson makes a strong case for Veeck as the most influential baseball executive who ever lived. He was certainly the most entertaining.” ―Marc Mohan, The Portland Oregonian

“One outstanding question hangs over Paul Dickson's new biography, Bill Veeck, Baseball's Greatest Maverick: Why did it take so long for the most colorful and perhaps most influential figure in baseball history to get a definitive biography? Probably because it took more than 20 years after Veeck's death (in 1986) to put all the facets of his amazing life together. Dickson, author of several superb baseball books, including The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and Baseball is... Defining the National Pastime, has done more than write the best baseball biography so far this decade. He's written an important piece of baseball history.” ―Allen Barra, The Chicago Tribune

“Paul Dickson has written the comprehensive biography.” ―Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

“In his lively (and occasionally beatific) biography, baseball and cultural historian Paul Dickson brings Veeck to life, relentlessly digging into his career and times to create a portrait of the kind of guy you'd like to have in your corner - or at your table for a drink.” ―Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Dickson renders an engaging portrait of a man who was more than just the facilitator of Eddie Gaedel, Larry Doby, and Comiskey Park's exploding scoreboard...[He] lucidly brings Veeck into focus.” ―NINE: A Journal of Baseball History & Culture

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick incorporates the picaresque anecdotes and populist charm of Veeck's memoirs into a narrative marked by Mr. Dickson's broad knowledge and fluid authority. The result is a biography that newcomers to the Veeck legend are likely to find immensely appealing, but one that also makes him new again for those who have already savored the baseball showman's own episodic volumes.” ―Maxwell Carter, The Wall Street Journal

“The proof of goodness is usually in the details, so it becomes clear right off the bat that Dickson has written an authoritative work.” ―Mike Downey, The Los Angeles Times

Bill Veeck comes as close to a "must-read" as any baseball book in recent memory. Grade: Home run.” ―Mark Hodermarsky, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Dickson gives Veeck his due in a volume sure to have a long shelf life. ” ―Booklist

“An engaging biography of Bill Veeck...[Dickson] expertly evokes Veeck's populist, garrulous public persona, while at the same time showing the private pain he endured as a World War II injury caused him to have countless amputations of portions of his right leg, leading to deterioration and ruin of the rest of his body, but not his spirit. Veeck is not as well remembered as he should be. Dickson's book is a skillful corrective.” ―Kirkus

“Paul Dickson has knocked another one out of the park with Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick a skillfully written biography, scrupulously researched, brimming with revealing anecdotes and historical detail ….So if you're planning your summer reading list, I recommend you place Dickson's enlightening and highly entertaining biography on one of baseball's most combative if influential owners at the very top of your list.” ―Bill Lucey, The Morning Delivery.

“Dickson brings the larger-than-life presence of Veeck into sharper focus, and re-introduces his innovative baseball mind in a fresh light. It's a smart, detailed and precise read, showing the same delightful candor that Veeck displayed during his heyday.” ―Bob D'Angelo, Tampa Tribune

“Paul Dickson's biography of Bill Veeck is thorough, entertaining, and superb.” ―Bill Littlefield, NPR "Only A Game."

“Any man who wanted to be included on Richard Nixon's enemies list is worthy of a searching biography--and Paul Dickson has been kind ehough to do that for us with his compelling portrait of the unregenerate Bill Veeck.” ―Ray Robinson, author of Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig In His Time.

“A definitive look at one of baseball's greatest innovators and ambassadors. A must-read.” ―Claire Smith, ESPN

“Paul Dickson has written a definitive biography.” ―Vick Mikunas, Dayton Daily News

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is a deeply insightful, powerful biography of a fascinating figure. It will take its place beside the recent bestselling biographies of Satchel Paige and Mickey Mantle, and will be the baseball book of the season in Spring 2012.” ―Feedbooks

“[Veeck] never truly got the recognition he deserved. Now he has.” ―Sports Books Reviews by Harvey Frommer

“Dickson is a master with words …He's got a voice that works with this subject, thankfully, and keeps it on track when all craziness could be breaking out. …. In fact, it's about time, and there has to be a way for someone to use this as a launching point for a movie about Veeck's life on the big screen.” ―Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News

“[S]ure to entertain is Paul Dickson's latest: Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick (Walker). As you'd expect, Veeck's trials, tribulations and experiments with the great game as its greatest promoter may well hold center stage, but Dickson has done something with this biography that I particularly loved … which is to write a book that also covers this man's life outside of the game.” ―Christina Kahrl, ESPN, "Sweet Spot"

“BILL VEECK, in the language of the subject, is a homerun--a bases clearer. The story of the remarkable full-life of this pioneering baseball character is told with the steadiness, detail and flare that we have come to expect from Paul Dickson, the premier all-star writer and reporter. The book is great fun--much like being in the bleachers during a day game.” ―Jim Lehrer

“Bill Veeck didn't want to break rules, he insisted, just "test their elasticity." He wasn't talking only about baseball. The master showman, who famously sent a three-foot-seven-inch batter to the plate, also desegregated the American League and proudly marched in the funeral procession for Dr. Martin Luther King--on his peg leg and without crutches. Bill Veeck revisits a golden age for baseball, a pivotal time for America and some hilarious moments in the life of a man who helped to change both.” ―Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

“Bill Veeck was inventive, courageous, principled, and hugely influential--the Thomas Paine of a revolutionary time in baseball … [who] has awaited a clear-eyed admiring chronicler, and in Paul Dickson he has found him. This amazingly detailed, delicious biography is, as its subject might have titled it, VEECK--AS IN SPEC-tacular!” ―John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball, and author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden

“[So] don't resist. Buy Paul Dickson's new book and have a blast.” ―Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

“Bill Veeck has finally met his match. Paul Dickson, consummate baseball historian, has given Veeck the biography he deserves. Meticulously reported and exhaustively researched, Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is, like its subject, a show-stopper.” ―Jane Leavy, author of The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood and Sandy Koufax

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is a very fine baseball biography that compares with the best work that has been published on the leaders of the sport over the years. Paul Dickson's breezy style illuminates not only the Bill Veeck of legend, but also the real Bill Veeck who worked hard at his craft even as he honed to a fine art the persona of a maverick and a "hustler," the term Veeck liked best in characterizing himself … Lost in all of the showmanship, publicity and stunts, Dickson concludes, was a tremendously sound baseball and business mind.” ―Roger Launius, Washington Independent Review of Books

“I was vastly entertained by Paul Dickson's biography of Bill Veeck, the wild man baseball impresario from Chicago. In addition to being an authoritative chronicle of how the game used to be in that halcyon fifty years between 1930 and 1980, it also gives off a reminiscent aura of grass outfields,the comforting feel of a hard bleacher seat, and airmade redolent of popcorn and tobacco. … One of the strong points of this book is the easy-reading, yet knowledgeable voice of the author.” ―Jim Srodes, American Spectator

Bill Veeck is as good as it gets when it comes to describing an American original. FIVE STARS.” ―Budd Bailey, Sports Book Review Center

“The best place to start is to say that I‘ve probably never had as much fun reading a book. Nor have I ever interrupted my reading so many times to regale my family with passages and anecdotes. If you haven't picked this book up yet, the time is now. If you are a baseball fan, a humanitarian, a history buff, someone who enjoys a good story, you'll have a hard time putting it down.” ―David Karpinski, Baseball Roundtable

“Dickson deftly captures this complex character, whose legacy reflects both Eddie Gaedel and Larry Doby, hucksterism and heroics.” ―Steve Roberts, The Washington Post

About the Author

Paul Dickson is the author of several classic baseball books, including The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball, The Hidden Language of Baseball, and The Joy of Keeping Score. He is also the author of the classic narrative history Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, and the co-author of the acclaimed The Bonus Army: An American Epic. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717788
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #585,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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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.
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Format: 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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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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I'm aware this review will fall on blind eyes, but apparently I am the lone dissenting voice. This book, while well-written and researched, is appalling. Let me make very clear my beef is NOT with Bill Veeck, a nice guy who cared for his players and who came along at just the right time to remind everybody that sports are supposed to be FUN. Rather, my issue is with author Paul Dickson, whose fawning obsequiousness toward his subject is nothing short of revolting. Veeck, while certainly a major historical figure in 20th century baseball, is simply not worthy of the idolatry this book stoops to.

Were Veeck still living, and based on the evidence of this book, one could easily assume Dickson was desperately seeking employment. He's so madly in love with his subject that he paints the whole world in black and white. Everyone on Veeck's side (consistently described as "innovative" or "progressive") is a friend, while those who would oppose or criticize his views ("stodgy" or "conservative") are enemies. Sacrificing objectivity on the altar of popularity, there is naturally no middle ground or room for indifference. The reader is reminded on almost every page of Veeck's championing (like any younger brother) of "the little guy", so much so that one would think he were a politician looking for a constituency. (And of course Dickson does pause in his narrative to contemplate, starry-eyed, Veeck as a politician.) While his subject's failures, shortcomings, and misfires are briefly acknowledged, so far backward does Dickson bend to convince his readers of St.Bill's infallibility that an entire appendix is devoted to convincing us that Veeck was one of the rare human beings who lived an entire lifetime without once lying, merely exaggerating on occasion.
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