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Veeck--As In Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck Paperback – April 7, 2001
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Opening with the answer to a trivia question—Eddie Gaedel was the 3’7” player who took exactly one at-bat for the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a 1951 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers (the pitcher, unable to locate the strike zone, gave up a base on balls)—this sports classic finds the subject providing color commentary to his own colorful career as a daring, innovative team owner and promoter in major league baseball. Though his most notorious years were still to come (where, with the Chicago White Sox, he introduced the exploding scoreboard, added names to the uniforms, enticed Harry Caray to sing the seventh-inning stretch, and presided over radio-jock Steve Dahl’s disastrous Disco Demolition Night, events mentioned in cowriter Linn’s afterword), there’s still more than enough inspired lunacy to keep readers’ attention. Linn captures the flavor of his subject’s speech in a first-person narrative that makes the reader feel as though he or she is sitting in Veeck’s office, where the door was always open, enjoying a strong beverage while the raconteur calls the tune. A fine portrait of days long past, when a strong-willed, one-legged showman could make a lasting impression on what has today become a much more corporate pastime. --Keir Graff
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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.
My side was splitting on the story of Mr. Veeck and Charlie Grimm on the ferris wheel.
As a sequel - I recommend "30 Tons a Day" which is the tale(s) of Mr. Veeck running Suffolk Down racetrack in Boston in the late 60's.