There are a number of memorable team owners in baseball history, but there are none like Bill Veeck. Born in 1914, his contributions to the game began at age ten when he sold concessions at Cubs Park for his father, Chicago Cubs president Bill Sr. At twenty-three, he was planting ivy on the outfield walls of The Friendly Confines and by twenty-seven he bought his first team, the American Association Milwaukee Brewers. A natural showman, he honed the art of promotion in the minors. When given an opportunity to buy his first major league team, the Cleveland Indians in 1946, he did not hesitate to use that knowledge. His numerous “stunts” include the hiring of 3’7” Eddie Gaedel, Disco Demolition Night, “Lucky Chair” prizes (including cans of beer, free dinners and live lobsters), and Grandstand Manager Night. He also created the first “exploding” scoreboard, had players names put on the back of uniforms, gave Larry Doby and Satchel Paige their first Major League jobs, won a World Championship in 1948 with Cleveland and a pennant in 1959 as owner of the Chicago White Sox. Never wealthy, he made the game more accessible to the common man. He staged numerous free ticket nights and ignored the practice of selling tickets to the World Series in multi-game blocks, allowing more cash-strapped fans to buy a ticket to a single game. His legacy on the sport is one of the most remarkable, and one of the most unsung, in baseball history.
Veeck was cremated and his ashes were spread in Lake Michigan, just like fellow Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane. That is why their order of acquisition is a tie at 34th.
November 23, 2010