Sports Century: Bill Veeck

A recording of the ESPN Classic program, "Sports Century." This episode is a documentary about Bill Veeck, former owner of several baseball teams, including the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. The documentary is mainly comprised of interviews with family, friends, and colleagues of Veeck, along with narration over still photos, period interviews, and newsreel footage.

00:00Copy video clip URL ESPN Classic’s “Sports Century” opening. Introducing Bill Veeck. People talk about Bill Veeck and his feeling toward baseball. John Callaway: “Veeck liked to have…FUN!”

02:40Copy video clip URL Veeck’s role in integrating baseball. Veeck signed the first black player in the American league to the Cleveland Indians, Larry Doby. Then he signed Satchel Paige and several other players. He hosted integrated home movie nights, and offered his home as a zone where civil rights leaders, the national guard, etc. would be able to talk.

06:00Copy video clip URL Experts discuss a possibly apocryphal tale that Veeck tried to buy the Phillies and stock it with all Negro League players.

08:42Copy video clip URL Talk of Veeck’s upbringing and his father, William Louis Veeck, Sr. Veeck grew up with ballplayers and in speakeasies. “Bill Veeck was born on the right side of the tracks, and as soon as he was a capable, he drug himself to the other side.” Veeck quit college when his father died and took an office job with the Cubs at nineteen.

10:34Copy video clip URL Veeck with the Cubs. He planted the signature vines at Wrigley Field. Veeck eventually bought the Milwaukee Brewers.

12:04Copy video clip URL Veeck’s marriage suffered as a result of his work with the Brewers.

12:36Copy video clip URL Veeck joined the marines in WWII, and lost his right foot and eventually his leg from the recoil of an anti-aircraft weapon. He was operated on 37 times. Pictures of Veeck from his time in the military.

13:52Copy video clip URL “Baseball was the only thing in the world for Bill.” Veeck sold the Brewers in order to save his marriage, but his time away from baseball didn’t last long.

15:32Copy video clip URL Veeck buys the Cleveland Indians. He gives things away at the games, and lets broadcasters in for free. Veeck would sit with people in the bleachers. He would meet workers after their shifts and talk baseball.

17:29Copy video clip URL He was offended when people called him handicapped. “I’m not handicapped, I’m crippled.” The Indians defeated the Boston Braves in the World Series, but he was estranged from his children. His wife didn’t want them having anything to do with him.

19:38Copy video clip URL Veeck meets Mary Frances, proposes, and she becomes the love of his life. He sells the Indians in 1949 and uses the money to pay for a divorce from his first wife.

22:36Copy video clip URL Veeck purchases the St. Louis Browns. He hires a “midget” to bat for the St. Louis Browns. Major League Baseball did not react favorably. They banned little people for life.

26:32Copy video clip URL Bill Veeck: “I don’t think that baseball is such a grim, serious thing…I DO want everyone who comes to the ball park to have fun…Let’s face it, often the ballgame isn’t the most exciting thing that ever happened.”

27:50Copy video clip URL Veeck held a “fan manager day” on which all decisions during the game were made by the fans holding big signs. Pictures of an elephant parade on the field.

29:20Copy video clip URL The owners turned on Veeck, permitting the St. Louis Browns to move to Baltimore as he wanted, but on the condition that he was no longer the owner.

30:12Copy video clip URL Veeck acquires the Chicago White Sox through his investment firm. Under his tenure, the White Sox win their first pennant since the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal. In 1961, Veeck sells the White Sox in order to battle cancer.

32:35Copy video clip URL After rest, Veeck’s diagnosis was changed. His smokers’ cough had caused him to be concussed; he did not have a brain tumor as previously thought. Footage of his family and family life.

34:00Copy video clip URL Veeck makes his living during the 1960s sharing his ideas about baseball. He fights for free agency. According to his son, this is what most ruined his reputation from baseball’s ownership.

36:13Copy video clip URL In 1969, Veeck takes on a brief stint as president of Suffolk Downs.

37:04Copy video clip URL In 1975, Veeck tries again to buy the White Sox. No sooner has he acquired the White Sox, than free agency starts making it challenging. He looks for guys who are injured, or who he can only sign for a year to get the biggest impact. Interviews with various White Sox players and footage of some of Veeck’s stunts at Comiskey Park.

42:55Copy video clip URL Veeck has to sell the White Sox because he can’t keep financial pace.

44:12Copy video clip URL Veeck’s oldest son, Will, dies in 1984. Veeck’s health begins to fail. He dies at 71 in 1986.

45:42Copy video clip URL Veeck gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. People discuss his legacy. The theme days at ballparks, etc.

46:54Copy video clip URL Tom Weinberg: “We should all have people in our lives like Bill Veeck.”

48:00Copy video clip URL End of tape.


1 Comment

  1. Jim says:

    Thanks for putting this up, as I’ve watched it several times now. Bill Veeck was one of a kind.

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