|Veeck as in Wreck (or Cheque)|
Backstory on Veeck
Veeck's father (Bill Veeck Sr.) was a sportswriter who in 1919 wrote a critical article of how the owner of the Chicago Cubs (Phil Wrigley Jr.) was operating his club, the article was poignant and sharp-cutting to the bone, enough so, to land him a phone call from Wrigley stating that if Veeck Sr. thought he could do a better job than why doesn't he come down and do it. Veeck Sr. did, and Wrigley hired Veeck Sr. to be president of the Cubs.
|Eddie walked on 4 pitches...|
In 1942 (five years prior to the fall of segregation in baseball), Veeck had a great idea, he wanted to gather up some investors and pool up money to purchase the struggling Philadelphia Phillies. The team was horrible, posting only 43 wins and 111 losses in the previous 1941 campaign, and only drawing 231,401 fans for the entire season. Veeck knew he could get the club cheap and had a brilliant idea to turn a last place club drawing only 0.2 million fans into a first place club who could draw 2.0 million fans. What was his brilliant idea? After he purchased the club, he planned on stocking it with superstars from the Negro Leagues (Paige, Doby, Robinson, etc.).
Now, the color line in baseball was never written in any rule books. Black players were playing in baseball leagues with other white players with no problem in the late 1800's. The color barrier arose in 1884, when the premier white star player Cap Anson refused to take the field when his team signed a black catcher named Moses Fleetwood Walker. The league responded to Cap's protest by forming a "gentlemanly agreement" made between all the owners to not sign black players. The owners, being very racist but also men of their word it seems, kept their "gentlemanly agreement" in effect for over 60 years.
So, in 1942 as stated above, Veeck (who was also the midwest promoter for the all-black Harlem Globetrotters basketball club) wanted to buy a Major League Baseball club and load it with superstar black players from the negro leagues. How do you think the stuffy, conservative, old boys club, owners felt about this suggestion?
Veeck went on to stints operating the Browns, and White Sox as well. He did not have an inherited family fortune like all the other owners, he had to keep his clubs afloat the old fashioned way, by giving his customers entertainment and satisfaction. Over the years he sent a midget to pinch hit, he hired colorful ball players like Max Patkin and others to play or coach bases, installed a fire works spouting "exploding" scoreboard, and accidently caused a punk rock riot at Comiskey Park by holding "Disco Demolition Night," where the blowing up of disco records turned a little unruly (as shown in the video below)...
With all due respect, credit for this idea should go to Canada's own punk rock icon Joey "Shithead" Keithley of D.O.A. who one year prior in 1978 held a "Disco Sucks" rally in Vancouver, Canada...
Ahead of his Time
Veeck brought up all kinds of things at owners meetings that were laughed at and scorned at by the stuffy shirted and cranky pantsed owners.
He had the foresight to see that the reserve clause (which kept players as being owned by their team) was not right and wanted to take it out of baseball. He even testified at Curt Flood's Supreme Court hearing when Flood challenged the reserve clause (Flood called the clause similar to slavery).
(newspaper article on Veeck's testimony at Flood's anti-trust suit)
Veeck proposed things from alterations to the minor league system, inter league play, and a slew of other things which were adopted by baseball 20 to 50 years later but at the time he proposed them they were considered as the ridiculous ravings of a jerk.
At the end of Veeck's book, "Veeck as in Wreck", there is a very omnious portion which sheds light on present day problems in baseball. After being out of baseball for years and finally returning as owner of the White Sox in the 70's, Veeck held a press conference in a hotel lobby and let in all the fans to chill and sell wares and whatnot. The new owner of the Milwaukee Brewers (a city where Veeck operated his first club, the minor league Brewers back in the early 40's and laid the ground work for baseball there), one Bud Selig, a young ugly punk, told Veeck that he is ruining baseball and turning it into a "meat market." Veeck knew that baseball may have had some new younger owners, but he realized that they were as stuffy and narrow minded as the old ones.
20 to 50 Years Later
Fast forward to the year 1997, and Bud Selig unvails the revolutionary concept of Interleague Play and the orthodox fundamentalist owners faction proclaims him a renegade genius who's "outside the box mousy radical" thinking is saving the game. Gee, I wonder where he got that idea from?
Selig has been the commissioner for over over twenty years now, and the last twenty years is where baseball has gotten out of control. Salaries are out of control, steroids are out of control, the inequities between small and large markets are out of control, a World Series (1994) was cancelled, and a slew of other nonsense. He is the first owner to be commissioner which is an obvious total conflict of interest. Baseball really is a "meat market" now, but it wasn't Bill Veeck who made it this way, it was that bum Selig.
I think Bill Veeck is still alive somewhere having a beer with Elvis Presley, Andy Kaufmann, and Bigfoot. I think he's taking cabs around whatever town he's in, hitting all the local bars, trying to drum up support from investors to buy a club. I hope he's telling them it's all in debentures and they'll get half their returns next quarter and the other half when "they can catch him."
|Who Selig? Yeah, we should jerk the bum.|
"And who knows, the status quo of baseball might just look at the track record the next time I push for something like interleague play and say, 'alright let's humor this jerk for once.' And you know something? That's when it's time to start worrying. When they listen to your ravings with indulgence and, heaven help me, affection, you know you've joined the herd".