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Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick Hardcover – April 24, 2012
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
But as late as 1980 there was a major sports owner who put a priority on the appeal and cleanliness of the ladies’ rooms in his ball parks, who sold peanuts to fans in a pinch, and had a published [and personally answered] phone number. You can say many things about Bill Veeck—and indeed, his fans and detractors alike had plenty to say—but he loved baseball, and even more tellingly, the people who loved the game with him. Paul Dixon’s sympathetic but critical biography details the joy and the agony of a love that was spurned more often than requited.
Dixon does yeomen service in his introductory chapter on Bill Veeck Senior, who at the time of his son’s birth was a sports reporter and columnist for the Hearsts’ Chicago Evening American. Dixon cites the elder Veeck as having suspicions about the 1918 Braves/Cubs World Series and possible gambling influences a year before the Black Sox scandal. When William Wrigley bought the Cubs in late 1918, Veeck Senior was named vice-president and treasurer of the Cubs, with a special mandate to eliminate the influence of professional gambling.
The young Bill Veeck absorbed a remarkable education from his father in the art of delivering fan-friendly baseball. For both, the democratization of the front office and the fan base was a collective work of love. Father, and then son after the untimely passing of Veeck Senior, introduced Ladies’ Days and other such promotions as morning baseball games for defense workers. Veeck introduced countless promotions—some clever, many tacky or offbeat—over his baseball years, particularly when the field product was less than stellar.
Veeck made his career move to ownership when he put together an improbable consortium of investors to acquire the Milwaukee Brewers. Veeck was never flush even in his best times—as best as can be determined in this work, he ended his life with a modest estate at best. Nearly all of his career franchise acquisitions were conducted somewhat breathlessly. He was remarkably successful in revitalizing this American Association franchise, but by 1942 Dixon observes a trait that would always be an Achilles heel for Veeck and keep him from the Hall of Fame for many years—his antagonism toward fellow owners.
One of my few criticisms of the book is the author’s limited treatment of this factor in Veeck’s life. It is too easy to say that Veeck was uncomfortably “unconventional” for baseball management, though that was true enough. Baseball owners were a uniformly button-down group with a basic distrust of players and fans. Colonel Rupert was the rule, not the exception. It is also true that Veeck had a certain “Billy Martin management quality” about him; he was the master of the quick turnaround, certainly at the gate, and it is a safe bet that many mediocre franchise owners lived with the fear of Veeck swooping in. Another factor—and probably enough material for another book—was Veeck’s outspoken advocacy for the breaking of the color barrier, at least a decade before Jackie Robinson. Dixon discusses a still unresolved question—did Veeck plan to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 and populate the team with Negro players? The rumor was widely believed at the time and attributed to Veeck. [See Chapter Five, “The Philadelphia Story,”]
Although severely injured in the Pacific during World War II and losing a leg, the convalescing veteran was in the market earnestly in 1945 for a major league franchise. In 1946, with a consortium that included Bob Hope, Veeck purchased the Cleveland Indians, a superior team afflicted by low attendance and even then a large, antiquated waterfront stadium. Veeck made the most of his improvements on the amenities—the team under Lou Boudreau was not an issue—though he did integrate the team, adding Lary Doby three month after Robinson’s debut.
In 1948 Veeck’s Indians broke attendance records and won the World Series, probably the highlight of his professional career. Veeck, who had married a second time, to the vivacious Mary Frances, decided to cash out for the sake of his family and contemporary tax considerations. In May 1951 he purchase the St. Louis Browns, probably his worst business fiasco, for a brief tenure marked by the regrettable decision to send a midget to bat in an actual major league game, a well-intentioned fiaso that probably tarnished his name in the minds of many.
If anything, the animosity of Major League Baseball toward him was now set in stone. For nearly a decade he cast about for various ownership scenarios until—again with a large consortium—he purchased the Chicago White Sox in 1958, a rather good roster which quickly produced a pennant for Veeck in 1959, the famous “Go-Go Sox.” Health forced him out of the game in 1961, though his autobiography “Veeck: As in Wreck” kept him in the public eye. Rather surprisingly, the struggling White Sox brought the old master back for one last fling in 1975. Aside from his advocacy of players’ rights, this tenure is remembered for the embarrassment of Disco Demolition Night” on July 12, 1979. 1979.
Dixon’s splendid and carefully documented work is required reading for the sake of one entrepreneur’s remarkable charisma and an insider’s look at the business of corporate baseball in the twentieth century.