Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick

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by Paul Dickson
     
 

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Relying on primary sources, including more than a hundred interviews, Paul Dickson has crafted a richly detailed portrait of an American original: baseball impresario and innovator, independent spirit and unflinching advocate of racial equality, Bill Veeck.

Veeck (1914–1986) was born into baseball. His sportswriter father became president of

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Overview

 

Relying on primary sources, including more than a hundred interviews, Paul Dickson has crafted a richly detailed portrait of an American original: baseball impresario and innovator, independent spirit and unflinching advocate of racial equality, Bill Veeck.

Veeck (1914–1986) was born into baseball. His sportswriter father became president of the Chicago Cubs, and Bill later worked for owner Phil Wrigley, rebuilding Wrigley Field to achieve the famed ambience that exists today. In his late twenties, he bought into his first team, the American Association Milwaukee Brewers. As World War II intensified, Veeck volunteered for combat duty, enduring a leg injury that led to a lifetime of amputations and silent suffering. On returning, he bought the Cleveland Indians in 1946—the first of four midwestern teams he would own, preceding the hapless St. Louis Browns (1951–53) and the Chicago White Sox (twice, 1959–61 and 1975–81).

Though foiled in an earlier plan to bring Negro League players to the majors, in the summer of 1947, Veeck integrated his team on field and off, signing Larry Doby, the American League’s first black player, and hiring the first black public relations officer, trainer, and scout. A year later, he signed the legendary black pitcher Satchel Paige, who helped win the 1948 World Series—Cleveland’s last championship to this day. His promotional genius was second to none, endearing him to fans in every city, while his feel for the game led him to propose innovations way ahead of their time. Veeck’s deep sense of fairness helped usher in free agency, breaking the stranglehold owners had on players; indeed, he was the only owner to testify in support of Curt Flood during his landmark reserve clause challenge.

Bill Veeck brings fully to life a transformational, visionary figure who spent a lifetime challenging baseball’s and society’s well-entrenched status quo. It is essential reading for any fan and anyone with a fascination for twentieth-century America.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Dickson (The Unwritten Rules of Baseball, 2009, etc.) delivers an engaging biography of Bill Veeck (1914–1986), an innovative, irascible and progressive gadfly within the staid world of baseball. For six decades, from the 1930s to the '80s, wherever baseball was played, talked about or voted on, Veeck was there. Born into baseball--his father had been president of the Chicago Cubs--Veeck would go on to own and run four baseball teams. In each case, he turned moribund franchises into fan favorites through promotions ranging from ingenious to silly, from exploding scoreboards to having a little person (a midget) take an at-bat--and much, much more. But he also had a keen eye for talent and produced winning teams--his Cleveland Indians won the World Series in 1948. Color was no barrier to Veeck, as he signed the first black player in the American League, Larry Doby, who would later become the second black manager in the big leagues. Off the field, he was a lifelong champion of civil rights and of political causes he thought right; he opposed the Vietnam War. All of this brought him fan adulation but fellow owners' enmity, as his irreverent insistence that baseball might be fun seemed to threaten the sanctity of the game. Dickson suggests his progressive stance on race might have been the greater irritant: In 1950, the only black players in the American League were on Veeck's Indians. Ever fast with a quip, Veeck returned the fire, once saying, "I've always felt that when most owners stick their heads in the sand, their brains are still showing." Dickson expertly evokes Veeck's populist, garrulous public persona, while at the same time showing the private pain he endured as a World War II injury caused him to have countless amputations of portions of his right leg, leading to deterioration and ruin of the rest of his body, but not his spirit. Veeck is not as well remembered as he should be. Dickson's book is a skillful corrective.
The Washington Post
…lively and informative…Dickson deftly captures this complex character…
—Steven V. Roberts

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802717788
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
1,470,049
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.41(d)

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