Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick

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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 the Chicago Cubs, and Bill later worked for owner Phil Wrigley, rebuilding Wrigley Field to achieve the famed ambience that exists today. ...

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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 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

The Washington Post
…lively and informative…Dickson deftly captures this complex character…
—Steven V. Roberts
From the Publisher
    Bill Veeck—The award-winning biography of baseball's greatest maverick by Paul Dickson:
  • Casey Award for the best baseball book of 2012 from Spitball Magazine.
  • Reader’s Choice Award from the Baseball Caucus of the Special Libraries Association of America which is also for the best baseball book of 2012.
  •  2012 Jerome Holtzman Award from the Chicago Baseball Museum.

Dickson has also been awarded the Henry Chadwick Award from the Society for Baseball Research for 2012 for his lifetime achievements as a baseball researcher and  scholar. In 2011 Dickson won the Tony Salin Award from the Baseball Reliquary for his contributions to the preservation of the history of the game.

"Veeck was a one of a kind whose impact reached beyond the ballpark, into the very fiber of 20th-century America. Dickson has captured it all in entertaining fashion."—James Bailey, Baseball America

"Paul Dickson’s excellent biography Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick is among the few great biographies set in sports. Beyond that it is the story of a singular fellow whose energy, determination, wit, and powerful commitment to fairness spiced with an unquenchable sense of the absurd enabled him to live an exceptionally full and passionate life."—Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe

"In this crisply written, admiring but never fawning chronicle, Dickson makes a strong case for Veeck as the most influential baseball executive who ever lived. He was certainly the most entertaining."—Marc Mohan, The Portland Oregonian

"One outstanding question hangs over Paul Dickson’s new biography, Bill Veeck, Baseball’s Greatest Maverick: Why did it take so long for the most colorful and perhaps most influential figure in baseball history to get a definitive biography? Probably because it took more than 20 years after Veeck’s death (in 1986) to put all the facets of his amazing life together. Dickson, author of several superb baseball books, including The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and Baseball is… Defining the National Pastime, has done more than write the best baseball biography so far this decade. He’s written an important piece of baseball history." —Allen Barra, The Chicago Tribune

"Paul Dickson has written the comprehensive biography."—Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"In his lively (and occasionally beatific) biography, baseball and cultural historian Paul Dickson brings Veeck to life, relentlessly digging into his career and times to create a portrait of the kind of guy you'd like to have in your corner - or at your table for a drink." Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"Dickson renders an engaging portrait of a man who was more than just the facilitator of Eddie Gaedel, Larry Doby, and Comiskey Park's exploding scoreboard...[He] lucidly brings Veeck into focus."—NINE: A Journal of Baseball History & Culture

"Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick incorporates the picaresque anecdotes and populist charm of Veeck's memoirs into a narrative marked by Mr. Dickson's broad knowledge and fluid authority. The result is a biography that newcomers to the Veeck legend are likely to find immensely appealing, but one that also makes him new again for those who have already savored the baseball showman's own episodic volumes."—Maxwell Carter, The Wall Street Journal

"The proof of goodness is usually in the details, so it becomes clear right off the bat that Dickson has written an authoritative work."—Mike Downey, The Los Angeles Times

"Bill Veeck comes as close to a "must-read" as any baseball book in recent memory. Grade: Home run."–Mark Hodermarsky, Cleveland Plain Dealer 

"Dickson gives Veeck his due in a volume sure to have a long shelf life."–Booklist

"An engaging biography of Bill Veeck…[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."–Kirkus

"Paul Dickson has knocked another one out of the park with Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick a skillfully written biography, scrupulously researched, brimming with revealing anecdotes and historical detail ….So if you’re planning your summer reading list, I recommend you place  Dickson’s enlightening and highly entertaining biography on one of baseball’s most combative if influential owners at the very top of your list."—Bill Lucey, The Morning Delivery.

"Dickson brings the larger-than-life presence of Veeck into sharper focus, and re-introduces his innovative baseball mind in a fresh light. It’s a smart, detailed and precise read, showing the same delightful candor that Veeck displayed during his heyday."—Bob D’Angelo, Tampa Tribune

"Paul Dickson’s biography of Bill Veeck is thorough, entertaining, and superb."—Bill Littlefield, NPR "Only A Game."

"Any man who wanted to be included on Richard Nixon's enemies list is worthy of a searching biography—and Paul Dickson has been kind ehough to do that for us with his compelling portrait of the unregenerate Bill Veeck."—Ray Robinson, author of Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig In His Time.

"A definitive look at one of baseball's greatest innovators and ambassadors. A must-read."—Claire Smith, ESPN

"Paul Dickson has written a definitive biography."—Vick Mikunas, Dayton Daily News

"Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is a deeply insightful, powerful biography of a fascinating figure. It will take its place beside the recent bestselling biographies of Satchel Paige and Mickey Mantle, and will be the baseball book of the season in Spring 2012."—Feedbooks

"[Veeck] never truly got the recognition he deserved. Now he has."— Sports Books Reviews by Harvey Frommer

"Dickson is a master with words …He's got a voice that works with this subject, thankfully, and keeps it on track when all craziness could be breaking out. …. In fact, it's about time, and there has to be a way for someone to use this as a launching point for a movie about Veeck's life on the big screen." —Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News

"[S]ure to entertain is Paul Dickson’s latest: Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick (Walker). As you’d expect, Veeck’s trials, tribulations and experiments with the great game as its greatest promoter may well hold center stage, but Dickson has done something with this biography that I particularly loved … which is to write a book that also covers this man’s life outside of the game"—Christina Kahrl, ESPN, "Sweet Spot"

"BILL VEECK, in the language of the subject, is a homerun—a bases clearer. The story of the remarkable full-life of this pioneering baseball character is told with the steadiness, detail and flare that we have come to expect from Paul Dickson,  the premier all-star writer and reporter. The book is great fun—much like being in the bleachers during a day game."—Jim Lehrer    

"Bill Veeck didn’t want to break rules, he insisted, just "test their elasticity." He wasn't talking only about baseball. The master showman, who famously sent a three-foot-seven-inch batter to the plate, also desegregated the American League and proudly marched in the funeral procession for Dr. Martin Luther King—on his peg leg and without crutches. BILL VEECK revisits a golden age for baseball, a pivotal time for America and some hilarious moments in the life of a man who helped to change both."—Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

"Bill Veeck was inventive, courageous, principled, and hugely influential—the Thomas Paine of a revolutionary time in baseball … [who] has awaited a clear-eyed admiring chronicler, and in Paul Dickson he has found him. This amazingly detailed, delicious biography is, as its subject might have titled it, VEECK—AS IN SPEC-tacular!"—John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball, and author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden

"[So] don't resist. Buy Paul Dickson's new book and have a blast."—Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

"Bill Veeck has finally met his match.  Paul Dickson, consummate baseball historian, has given Veeck the biography he deserves. Meticulously reported and exhaustively researched, Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick is, like its subject, a show-stopper."—Jane Leavy, author of The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood and Sandy Koufax

Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick is a very fine baseball biography that compares with the best work that has been published on the leaders of the sport over the years. Paul Dickson’s breezy style illuminates not only the Bill Veeck of legend, but also the real Bill Veeck who worked hard at his craft even as he honed to a fine art the persona of a maverick and a "hustler," the term Veeck liked best in characterizing himself … Lost in all of the showmanship, publicity and stunts, Dickson concludes, was a tremendously sound baseball and business mind." —Roger Launius, Washington Independent Review of Books

"I was vastly entertained by Paul Dickson's biography of Bill Veeck, the wild man baseball impresario from Chicago. In addition to being an authoritative chronicle of how the game used to be in that halcyon fifty years between 1930 and 1980, it also gives off a reminiscent aura of grass outfields,the comforting feel of a hard bleacher seat, and airmade redolent of popcorn and tobacco. … One of the strong points of this book is the easy-reading, yet knowledgeable voice of the author."—Jim Srodes, American Spectator

"Bill Veeck is as good as it gets when it comes to describing an American original. FIVE STARS."—Budd Bailey, Sports Book Review Center


“The best place to start is to say that I‘ve probably never had as much fun reading a book.  Nor have I ever interrupted my reading so many times to regale my family with passages and anecdotes.  If you haven’t picked this book up yet, the time is now.  If you are a baseball fan, a humanitarian, a history buff, someone who enjoys a good story, you’ll have a hard time putting it down."—David Karpinski, Baseball Roundtable


“Dickson deftly captures this complex character, whose legacy reflects both Eddie Gaedel and Larry Doby, hucksterism and heroics.”—Steve Roberts, The Washington Post

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802778307
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 480,555
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Dickson

Paul Dickson is the author of several classic baseball books, including The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball, The Hidden Language of Baseball, and The Joy of Keeping Score. He is also the author of the classic narrative history Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, and the co-author of the acclaimed The Bonus Army: An American Epic. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Senior 7

2 Veeck on Deck 24

3 A Rambunctious Cub 41

4 Brewers Gold 55

5 The Philadelphia Story 70

6 Pvt. Veeck Goes to War 84

7 Back in the Game 105

8 Lawrence Doby and the Integration of the American League 122

9 The Oldest Rookie 136

10 Indians Summer 150

11 Flagpole Sitting 168

12 Striking Out with the St. Louis Browns 184

13 Baltimore Chop 207

14 Chicago a Go-Go 218

15 Bells and Whistles 240

16 Peachblossom Creek 248

17 Off to the Races 267

18 The Last Hurrah 285

19 Demolition 308

20 Borrowed Time 325

Epilogue 342

Following the Family and Close Friends 349

Acknowledgments 353

Appendix: Did Bill Veeck Lie About His Plan to Purchase the '43 Phillies? 357

Notes 367

Select Bibliography 403

Index 417

Image Credits 435

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Outsyt Outstanding

    Great bio of a true innovator and renaissance man!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Loved it... no photos

    Loved this book, but my Nook had no photos. Im not sure if this is a Nook issue or a publisher issue. If this is a Nook issue I am going to consider another ereader. Any suggestions??

    Amazing read for those looking for a good baseball book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    Rollicking Read

    Dickson does an excellent job of capturing Veeck in all his flavors, including an empathic view of the wizard from behind the curtain, the man we never knew. Not only is it a great story, but a fascinating look at a significant chunk of baseball history. It sheds new light on the era that saw the end of baseball's racial barriers. It should be required reading for suffering Cleveland sports fans who, like me, are too young to have been there the last time the Tribe won the series, that's not to take anything away from the insight fans in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago will gain. More generally, if you are a fan of great biographies, read this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2012


    enjoyed the book very much. outstanding. buy it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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