Wednesday, February 09, 2005

 

February 9th, 1914

Bill Veeck Born

There are approximately a billion Bill Veeck stories, of which perhaps ten percent are true. The best collection for these is Veeck himself and his fantastic autobiography Veeck as in Wreck. Nonetheless, it’s worth running through some of Veeck's accomplishments. The famous Ivy on the walls of Wrigley Field was planted (literally) by Veeck. He was the first owner to put names on the back of his players' uniforms. He broke the American League color barrier as owner of the Indians when he signed Larry Doby.

But Veeck is most remembered for the collection of goofy promotions he held. As owner of the St. Louis Browns, Veeck held "Grandstand Manager" day when team decisions (bunt, steal, etc.) were made by a majority vote of the crowd holding up YES or NO placards, while manager Zack Taylor watched the game from a rocking chair. The fans, proving this stuff isn’t exactly rocket science despite what George Will thinks, managed the team to a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia A's, one of only a pair of Browns' wins in the last ten days of August. A few days prior to Grandstand Manager day, Veeck had held his most famous promotion ever, sending a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to bat. Wearing a rather unique jersey, Gaedel drew a walk on four pitches all of which, predictably, were high. Veeck happily admitted that his legacy would forever be sending Gaedel up to bat, but it is not my personal favorite Veeck promotion. During his time as owner of the Indians, a factory watchman named Joe Earley sent a letter to a Cleveland paper complaining that rich ballplayers frequently had special days to honor them, during which they would receive various gifts despite a complete lack of need. In response, Veeck held "Good Old Joe Earley Night" where the man got a new washing machine, a refrigerator, luggage and a Ford convertible.

Midgets, fans managing and special nights for complaining fans. We'll never see another owner like Bill Veeck, so at least we can enjoy the memories.




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