Veeck: A Man For Any Season

Bill Veeck was a legend in baseball. He was the colorful owner of the Chicago White Sox (twice), the Cleveland Indians, and the old St. Louis Browns. His Chicago baseball roots go back to the 1920s when he actually planted the vines in the outfield at Wrigley Field. This documentary is an intimate portrait of the man and his world, in 1984, the year before his death. The story is told using voice over by Veeck's wife, Mary Frances, current and archival interviews with Veeck and his colleagues, and footage of Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field. It covers many of his famous promotions, such as when he sent 3'7" Eddie Gaedel to bat for the St. Louis Browns. He was called "The Barnum of Baseball" for his showmanship, but he was also a deep, lovable, down-to-earth "regular guy."

0:00Copy video clip URL Slate, logo.

0:02Copy video clip URL Veeck recites myth of how the elephant got his trunk, a quote from Kipling.

0:37Copy video clip URL Opening music and voice over about Veeck’s accomplishments, narrated by Mary Frances Veeck, over a montage of archival Veeck clips.

2:20Copy video clip URL Archival clip from “Person to Person” with Veeck and his wife Mary Frances walking around and talking about their home in Hyde Park. Ed Murrow gives Veeck’s bio to age 45.

2:47Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about his father and the lessons he taught him about money and life.

3:50Copy video clip URL Clip from Bill Veeck’s Front Office TV show. Veeck talks about the evolution of his career. Photograph of Veeck with Charlie Grimm.

4:44Copy video clip URL Lou Boudreau credits Veeck with introducing entertainment to baseball.

4:58Copy video clip URL Harry Caray talks about Veeck and his promotional innovations.

5:11Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about his strategies with promoting and the Eskimo Pie giveaways.

5:45Copy video clip URL Archival footage of Veeck’s famous promotions (little person batting, shower in the bleachers, exploding scoreboard, etc.) with voice over describing them.

6:15Copy video clip URL Veeck at Wrigley Field, where he worked as a young man for his father, who was the president of the Chicago Cubs. He talks about how much he loves that ballpark and reminisces about planting the vines in the outfield and the yard arm in center field.

6:40Copy video clip URL Mary Frances voice over explains Veeck’s early work for Wrigley.

7:00Copy video clip URL Veeck on Murrow show explaining his promotional philosophy.

7:23Copy video clip URL Veeck in Miller’s Pub, saying that fans in the ballpark should be treated like guests to your home, and that the owners are merely custodians for the fans of Chicago.

8:05Copy video clip URL Steve Stone sings his praises.

8:22Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about the huge crowds at Wrigley.

9:18Copy video clip URL Bill Gleason says that conversation with Bill Veeck is extremely stimulating.

9:37Copy video clip URL Veeck sits in the bleachers and speculates what the future of baseball and ballparks will be.

10:07Copy video clip URL Gleason talks further about Veeck’s encyclopedic knowledge.

10:26Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about the value of reading.

11:09Copy video clip URL Veeck picks out books at Kroch’s and Brentano’s.

11:53Copy video clip URL Bertha Mazer, Dept of Aging and Disability for the City of Chicago, says Veeck is the man of this city and that everyone loves him.

12:00Copy video clip URL Mayor Harold Washington praises Veeck as a man of the people.

12:10Copy video clip URL Clips of Veeck waving and greeting people, including Minnie Minoso, to the tune of “When You’re Smilin’.”

13:04Copy video clip URL Veeck in Wrigley says he has seen all of America’s natural wonders and still thinks that the most beautiful thing is a ballpark filled with people.

13:59Copy video clip URL On opening day, Veeck walks across Sheffield into the bleachers and is greeted by enthusiastic admirers.

14:42Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about opening day at the ballpark and about buying tickets for employees of Illinois Masonic Hospital out of gratitude for the excellent medical care he has received during his most recent and critical hospital stay. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”

15:32Copy video clip URL Sitting on the grass by the Shedd Aquarium looking at the Chicago skyline, Veeck argues with John Mengelt about the Cubs and their fans and the reason WGN bought the team.

17:22Copy video clip URL Shot of Veeck’s classic car pulling away from a gas station with narration by Mary Frances.

17:40Copy video clip URL Veeck asserts that he and Mary Frances are in disagreement with almost everything that President Ronald Reagan stands for.

18:42Copy video clip URL More footage from “Person to Person.”

18:54Copy video clip URL At the Westin Hotel in Chicago in 1985, Veeck is inducted to the Chicago Hall of Fame.

19:46Copy video clip URL In one of his thousands of free personal appearances, this one at Northeastern Illinois University, Veeck makes fun of himself for his career with the dismal St. Louis Browns in the 1950s. “Do you want to sit at second base? We’re not using it this year.”

20:43Copy video clip URL Mary Frances says that not many people know the introspective side of Veeck. Shots of Veeck gardening in his backyard, showing his bronze-painted wooden leg.

21:14Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about his wife and their lifestyle. They live very modestly because he doesn’t think that things that are more expensive are necessarily better.

23:13Copy video clip URL “Meet Bill Veeck.” The opening of the 1956 Chicago TV show, which gives a brief biographical sketch of the host. “Meet Bill Veeck. Bill who? Veeck (as in ‘wreck’ )…Who is he? Well…He’s a man of parts…as they say. He dislikes pomp & can’t…He can spot phonies. Presto! He has definite ideas…about sports…and the world…and the people in it. He has written 2 books…owned 3 baseball clubs…has 9 kids…and a lovely wife named Mary Frances. His is a refreshing voice of candor and truth…in a column syndicated in 80 American cities. Hear that voice now…and find out for yourself who Bill Veeck is!”

23:47Copy video clip URL Veeck talks about time and how we perceive it at different stages of our lives. “Time, of course, is purely relative. Time can seem endless to a youngster. The night before Christmas, when you were five years old, waiting for Santa, never passed. A summer day when you were a youngster seemed endless…But when you get older, you first recognize the limitations of time. And you also recognize that you can’t really stretch time yourself. So it is no longer endless. It is finite, rather than infinite. So being finite, as you get closer to what is accepted as a general terminal point, you find that without question that that time becomes more precious. Because there’s less of it. Maybe that’s the reason that elderly people – of which I don’t classify myself as one, although I fit into the time category – elderly people don’t sleep as much. Because maybe that allows them – they say they don’t need as much sleep – but maybe that allows them to maximize the time that they have that is conscious. And babies sleep almost all the time. Because it doesn’t matter. So you see here, you have these two extremes. And they’re approaching each other and you don’t really recognize with what great speed they are approaching until you get near the end. And then you have a greater appreciation of what is going to happen that you may miss.” He talks about his time at Illinois Masonic Hospital and worrying that he would never see his wife again.

26:44Copy video clip URL Mary Frances and Bill Veeck close Person To Person.

27:07Copy video clip URL Veeck with fans at Cubs game singing “Take Me Out To the Ball Game.” Credits.

27:34Copy video clip URL Veeck gives one last sound byte – “This is the epitome of pleasure.”

27:45Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

2 Comments

  1. Andre says:

    An absolutely lovely human being, with a perspective on life that was truly rare. He knew what was important. And what wasn’t. He would talk baseball with anyone. I’m still trying to find a copy of the wonderful “Opening Day” documentary PBS did on Veeck = a MUST SEE for all baseball fans of ANY era. God bless Bill Veeck!

  2. Doug Ruswick says:

    Him and Carey were good people! RIP

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