Bill Veeck, Jr. (1914-1986) is legendary in many ways-baseball impresario and innovator, independent spirit, champion of civil rights in a time of great change. Paul Dickson has written the first full biography of this towering figure, in the process rewriting many aspects of his life and bringing alive the history of America’s pastime.
This is a biography of baseball’s most charismatic and innovative showman Bill Veeck. Author Paul Dickson digs into Veeck’s interesting life and his contributions to sports and entertainment.
Veeck was a true innovator of modern sports entertainment, a baseball man who was also a showman akin to PT Barnum. He proved to be a transformative figure in sports history through his injection of fun, his role in racial integration and West Coast expansion of baseball. Veeck is the Godfather of the sports marketing and game operations industry and his legacy looms over in countless ways.
Veeck’s most important legacy is likely his playful spirit. Post-game fireworks, exploding scoreboards, the ivy walls at Wrigley, pinch-hitting the 3 feet 7 inch Eddie Gaedel, player names on the back of jersey, and Harry Caray singing “Take me out to the Ball game” can all be traced back to Veeck.
One of my favorite stories in the book is about a promotion Veeck created in Cleveland. After the Indians held a tribute for one of it’s players a Lakewood security guard named Joe Earley wrote a facetious letter to the Cleveland Press suggesting too many players were being honored. Earley said it was time for an average guy like Joe Earley be honored. In classic Veeck form he did just that creating “Joe Earley Night”. Life Magazine called it “a night to end all nights” and the wacky promotion drew a capacity crowd, helped take the pressure off the team during the pennant chase and showcased Veeck’s wicked eye for playful fun.
I really enjoyed the book which is deeply researched and well written. It puts Bill Veeck his proper place in sports history both as a showman, marketer and activist.
I had the great opportunity to interview the author Paul Dickson. He provided more stories and insight along with this simple summary of Bill Veeck’s influence: “The ultimate thing was he still put a smile on baseball’s face.” Read our interview with Paul Dickson here.
I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in sports and entertainment or modern sports marketing. Veeck is giant in the industry and this book provides an impressive look at his life.