Bill and Mike Veeck and “The Saint of Second Chances”


Bill Veeck and Media Burn founder Tom Weinberg at the White Sox’s spring training in 1978.

This week saw the release of The Saint of Second Chances on Netflix, the new documentary from acclaimed filmmakers Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor) and Jeff Malmberg (Marwencol). The film is a lively portrait of Mike Veeck, son of Chicago royalty Bill Veeck (1914-1986), who inherited his father’s passion for baseball and for the ballyhoo and PT Barnum-esque stunts that endeared his teams to their communities even when they were floundering in the standings. Mike, filmed at Miller’s Pub in the Loop, largely tells his own story but, fitting for the subject, Neville and Malmberg add some pizzazz, with actor Charlie Day playing Mike in exaggerated recreations and Jeff Daniels providing sardonic commentary as the narrator. 

There’s also, of course, a ton of archival footage. There’s footage of the outlandish promotions that Mike and his father concocted – the exploding scoreboard, the hot tub in the bleachers, the circus animals, the dancers. There’s glimpses of games and the crowds at Wrigley Field and the old Comiskey Park. We see baseball legends and guys that only the most devoted White Sox fans can remember. We see Mike running the show at the stadium for the St. Paul Saints and other minor league teams that he’s owned. And there’s a lot of footage of Bill and Mike, and of the characters that pop in and out of Mike’s biography – people like Steve Dahl and Darryl Strawberry and Harry Caray.

A LOT of that footage comes from Media Burn. Our mission is to preserve and share independent and community video, and in doing that we’ve built up a massive visual archive telling the history of the last 50-some years. We’ve been working hard to bring that archive to life, and one of the ways we do that is by licensing footage for documentaries and feature films, including Emmy winners and Oscar nominees, festival darlings as well as prime time TV shows.

Recent films to feature Media Burn footage include Laura Poitras’s astonishing All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Nicole Newnham’s Sundance hit The Disappearance of Shere Hite, the Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance, and this year’s Chicago International Film Festival’s opening night film, We Grown Now – which premieres Oct. 11 at the Music Box! And there are many, many more. Dozens of filmmakers have found inspiration in Media Burn’s collection, and we expect there will be countless more.

There is, however, something special about The Saint of Second Chances. Media Burn’s relationship to the Veeck family goes back nearly fifty years, when our founder Tom Weinberg began a series of projects featuring Bill Veeck. Those include Inside Spring Training, a documentary about the White Sox’s preseason preparations, and, in the mid-1980s, Veeck: A Man for Any Season, which Weinberg produced with Jamie Ceaser, as well as collaborations that gave Veeck a forum to showcase his thoughtful side and pontificate on sports, politics, and life: a series of “Commentaries”,  for example, or Bill Veeck’s Saloon. Media Burn’s collection also includes older archival tapes, including interviews with the whole Veeck family from 1962, segments from 60s-era The Bill Veeck Show, and an even earlier TV project, a pilot for the never-aired Bill Veeck’s Front Office, from 1953. It seems safe to assert that nobody else has anything remotely approaching Media Burn’s collection of footage of Bill Veeck.

We have similarly huge collections for a number of figures – Studs Terkel, Harold Washington, Howard Zinn, etc – sometimes coming from the footage shot for or collected for a single documentary, sometimes compiled from dozens of projects. But Veeck was more than a subject or a partner, he was a friend – though, as you see in A Man for Any Season and throughout the archive, he was a friend to pretty much everybody in the city of Chicago.

Mike Veeck, his son, carried on the family business and he’s lived a largely happy, fulfilling life but has also endured devastating personal tragedy. In the documentary, he reflects on the good times and the bad, especially lingering on the disastrous “Disco Demolition Night” stunt that became an albatross that hung around Mike’s neck for decades. He reflects on family and on the important things in his life, and on what he’s learned from loss and heartbreak. The Saint of Second Chances is an affirming, touching portrait, and it’s very meaningful to us that Media Burn is able to contribute to it.



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