Veeck as in Heck

24 Sep

I have discovered in 20 years of moving around a ballpark, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats. Bill Veeck

Bill Veeck (peg legged) Opening Day 1976.


I was in Chicago (where I grew up) recently amidst the roiling atmosphere of a city wide teacher’s strike,lovely autumnal meteorological conditions, personal nostalgia and lo and behold, a pennant race (involving, to my mind the wrong Chicago team))on the South Side. I don’t know if Chicago is still, in Nelson Algren’s famous phrase, ” a city on the make” but it is most apparently, a city on the go.

One of my Chitown stops was a visit to my buddy Mike James at his Heartland Cafe. Having made several voyages to the Caribbean Basin with Mike it is always a treat to check in with him and see in what he is involved. Mike is an incredibly energetic septuagenarian, running a well-regarded hospitality empire, continuing his life long radical activism (see Athletes United for Peace)
shepherding a flock of kids (driving one of his sons out to Evergreen State University in Washington State) and now working on a number of book projects include a memoir/history of the 1960’s community organization Rising Up Angry that James was instrumental in
working with.

Mike and I spent some time watching the White Sox in a day game versus their American League Central rival,The Detroit Tigers. Having only enjoyed the Chi Sox when Ozzie Guillen was their jefe, I asked Mike why he was a Sox partisan. His one word answer, “Veeck.”

Bill Veeck by Paul Dickson


Biil Veeck, who at one time owned the Chicago White Sox, was a baseball owner of a different stripe and looking around at the sad collection of gray and hollow plutocrats who own baseball today— well,its not an encouraging group. Paul Dickson, whose Baseball Dictionary is an indispensable resource, has penned a biography of the great baseball legend, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick (Bloomsbury). Though it needs to be said that he was baseball’s only maverick (no, I haven’t forgotten Charlie Finley), Veeck was also baseball’s sole (political) lefty who denounced baseball’s reserve clause and had he achieved his life’s ambition of owning the then Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) he fully intended to install that team with the game’s first black manager. Dickson captures Veeck’s endearing complexity which combined, as Steven Roberts opines, “hucksterism and heroics” Baseball could use a guy like that today.And evermore.

Currently reading Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo (Knopf)

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