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View Full Version : Book Review: Veeck As In Wreck


Brian26
02-22-2004, 10:03 PM
I've been meaning to read this book for years, and I finally had the chance to pick it up off Amazon.com. I plowed through it in two weeks, and I'd thought I do a quick review for those who may be interested in reading it down the line.

The book was fantastic. The book was written around 1963, so unfortunately Bill doesn't write about his second stint with the White Sox and how he saved them from moving to Seattle when Art Allyn went bankrupt. However, Ed Linn does include an afterword that talks about the 2nd Veeck ownership and sums up the highs and lows.

Although Bill writes about his early years, growing up in suburban Hinsdale and getting into the business due to his father's association with the Cubs, a majority of the book centers around Bill's ownership of the Milwaukee minor league franchise, the Cleveland Indians (who won the pennant in '48), the St. Louis Browns, and finally the White Sox.

The book is loaded with great stories. I was amazed at Bill's memory, as he was able to go into great detail about certain games and events. There are tons and tons of interesting bits of trivia that make this a fascinating read for anyone curious about the political landscape of baseball at the time.

Bill's stories about the St. Louis franchise were great. In a nutshell, he was going to be run out of town when Auggie Busch bought the Cardinals. Using the Cardinals essentially as a tax write-off to sponsor Budweiser, Veeck was helpless in St. Louis. He hoped to either move the franchise up to Milwaukee or to Baltimore, but the National League basically screwed him over. The Boston Braves ended up with the Milwaukee franchise, and Baltimore was voted in after Veeck was forced to sell the Browns due to bankruptcy. The owners at the time decided to stall on the vote because they knew Veeck couldn't meet payroll for another year in St. Louis.

Veeck was a pioneer. One of his ideas was to purchase the Philadelphia franchise and stock the entire roster with Negro league players (long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier). Veeck goes into great detail about how he forced major league baseball to come up with certain rules. When he was in Milwaukee, they built a retractable chain-link fence that he would slide in or out depending on who was coming to town to play. In Cleveland, they had several sets of fence posts dug in the outfield, and before each series, they would adjust the fence location based on the power of the visiting team.

Interestingly enough, Veeck really worked as both the owner and general manager in his days in Cleveland and St. Louis. I'm not sure if the general manager role really existed that early in baseball (although he talks about Frank Lane in Chicago and Hank Greenberg later on), but it seemed like Veeck really enjoyed being in charge of all player transactions.

Veeck brought Larry Doby and Satchell Paige into the league with Cleveland in the late 40's, and Paige ended up pitching for Veeck years later in Florida, possibly at the age of 62.

Most of the Chicago stuff is common knowledge for Sox fans. Veeck talks about the exploding scoreboard, his battles with the Yankees at the time, his plot to set off fireworks from a rented lot across the street from Yankee Stadium, winning the '59 pennant and being mobbed at Midway airport after they came back from Cleveland.

Lots of time is spent talking about financial points and future expansion in baseball. It's fascinating to read this in hindsight knowing how everything turned out.

Remarkably enough, many of the ideas Veeck talked about back then still hold true today. The most impressive thing I came away from the book with was how important Veeck felt it was to go out and meet the paying customers on the lecture/speaking circuit. When's the last time Reinsdorf went to a school or luncheon and gave a speech about the Sox? Veeck was a media darling, and really that's 180 degrees from where the current ownership stands.

This was one of the best baseball books I've ever read, and I highly recommend it.

HITMEN OF 77
02-23-2004, 01:12 AM
Brian-Nice write up there on the book. Very well crafted and you hit all the key points. You get an A :smile: For those who haven't read the book its really good. It's must have for the Sox fan along with the "White Sox Encyclopedia" and "Through Hope and Despair"

npdempse
02-23-2004, 01:59 AM
While some of Veeck's programs were shear nuttiness, the guy know what marketing was about (and at least a little of him has rubbed off on Wm. Veeck III, Detroit's marketing guy). I particularly loved his section on Cleveland, and how taking a pennant galvanized the Indians' fandom. Gallas could take a lot of lessons from Veeck as in Wreck.

WSI should develop a bibliography; not only for Sox related books, but baseball in general.

Brian26
02-23-2004, 07:12 AM
Originally posted by npdempse
I particularly loved his section on Cleveland, and how taking a pennant galvanized the Indians' fandom. Gallas could take a lot of lessons from Veeck as in Wreck.

WSI should develop a bibliography; not only for Sox related books, but baseball in general.

What was truly amazing about the attendance records he set in Cleveland was the fact that the population of the Cleveland metro area at the time was approximately a tenth of what the New York population was. The attendance record translated on a per capita basis is absolutely amazing.

I'm reading "Strength Up the Middle" right now and should be able to post a review this weekend. It's not nearly as good as the Veeck book...I'll explain why.

Baby Fisk
02-23-2004, 09:23 AM
Great review, Brian. Veeck is The Man! I bought Veeck as in Wreck through amazon as well and look forward to reading it!

I just finished reading "Baseball, Chicago Style" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1566251702/qid=1077549671/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-5455073-5817749?v=glance&s=books) by Holtzman and Vass. Maybe I'll scratch together a review of that one.

Originally posted by npdempse
WSI should develop a bibliography; not only for Sox related books, but baseball in general.

Hey Mods, ever consider setting up a bibliography?

Even better would be a compilation of Reader Reviews! Whaddya think??? :cool:

ewokpelts
02-23-2004, 11:30 AM
Originally posted by Baby Fisk
Great review, Brian. Veeck is The Man! I bought Veeck as in Wreck through amazon as well and look forward to reading it!

I just finished reading "Baseball, Chicago Style" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1566251702/qid=1077549671/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-5455073-5817749?v=glance&s=books) by Holtzman and Vass. Maybe I'll scratch together a review of that one.



Hey Mods, ever consider setting up a bibliography?

Even better would be a compilation of Reader Reviews! Whaddya think??? :cool:

or an expanded "bookstore" section?
Gene

Brian26
02-23-2004, 11:49 AM
Originally posted by Baby Fisk
Great review, Brian. Veeck is The Man! I bought Veeck as in Wreck through amazon as well and look forward to reading it!

I just finished reading "Baseball, Chicago Style" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1566251702/qid=1077549671/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-5455073-5817749?v=glance&s=books) by Holtzman and Vass. Maybe I'll scratch together a review of that one.



Hey Mods, ever consider setting up a bibliography?

Even better would be a compilation of Reader Reviews! Whaddya think??? :cool:

Thanks,

I think a reader-review section is a great idea. I'm curious if anyone else here has ever attempted to read "Men At Work" by George Will. As good as the Veeck book was, I thought Men At Work was just as bad. It was terribly dry reading, and I think I put it down after the first chapter and never finished it.

Baby Fisk
02-23-2004, 12:25 PM
Originally posted by Brian26
I'm curious if anyone else here has ever attempted to read "Men At Work" by George Will. As good as the Veeck book was, I thought Men At Work was just as bad. It was terribly dry reading, and I think I put it down after the first chapter and never finished it.

Yeah, I won't go near a George Will book. Dry as the Sahara. I have a friend who loves his TV appearances, but I find even his columns are mind-numbing. I can imagine him approaching baseball hoping to be like John Updike, penning fabulously colourful and alliterative musings on the sport, but coming off like a guy discussing accounting. No thanks...

Another (hopefully) interesting book I ordered from Amazon is Twilight Teams, which covers the final seasons of 6 former MLB teams that moved elsewhere: Boston Braves, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia A's, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and Washington Senators. I'm interested in the Browns for the Veeck connection. Maybe another subconscious appeal of the book was in knowing that the Sox could have been added to this list in the late 80's but thankfully weren't.

Brian26
02-23-2004, 12:34 PM
Originally posted by Baby Fisk
Yeah, I won't go near a George Will book. Dry as the Sahara. I have a friend who loves his TV appearances, but I find even his columns are mind-numbing. I can imagine him approaching baseball hoping to be like John Updike, penning fabulously colourful and alliterative musings on the sport, but coming off like a guy discussing accounting. No thanks...

Another (hopefully) interesting book I ordered from Amazon is Twilight Teams, which covers the final seasons of 6 former MLB teams that moved elsewhere: Boston Braves, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia A's, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and Washington Senators. I'm interested in the Browns for the Veeck connection. Maybe another subconscious appeal of the book was in knowing that the Sox could have been added to this list in the late 80's but thankfully weren't.

Heh. Late 80's, mid 70's, early 70's....The Sox have avoided disaster a few times in their life.

The "Twilight Teams" book sounds really good. I think Veeck touched upon all of those franchises and the political ramifications in the cities they were leaving and the cities they were trying to move to. The entire landscape of ownership during that time is fascinating to read about, especially the different "clicks", i.e. The Briggs family in Detroit was tight with the Cleveland owners, while New York protected Philadelphia's interests because they wanted to move the A's to KC as their farm team. Actually, the Philadelphia-KC A's relationship with the Yankees is the reason the Yankees basically were handed Roger Maris' contract for hardly anything in return. Let us know when you get the book and if it turns out to be as good as it sounds.

Baby Fisk
02-23-2004, 12:46 PM
Originally posted by Brian26
Heh. Late 80's, mid 70's, early 70's....The Sox have avoided disaster a few times in their life.

The "Twilight Teams" book sounds really good. I think Veeck touched upon all of those franchises and the political ramifications in the cities they were leaving and the cities they were trying to move to. The entire landscape of ownership during that time is fascinating to read about, especially the different "clicks", i.e. The Briggs family in Detroit was tight with the Cleveland owners, while New York protected Philadelphia's interests because they wanted to move the A's to KC as their farm team. Actually, the Philadelphia-KC A's relationship with the Yankees is the reason the Yankees basically were handed Roger Maris' contract for hardly anything in return. Let us know when you get the book and if it turns out to be as good as it sounds.

Will do. :cool:

I really like the idea of a Reader Reviews section on WSI. It would be good to know what other fans find essential reading, and what to avoid. The one I just read -- Baseball, Chicago Style -- had some interesting nuggets of info here and there, but was mostly a very basic overview of Sox & Cubs history. Good for new fans or as a refresher, but not really in depth on any particular subject.

VeeckAsInWreck
02-23-2004, 05:02 PM
I love reading VAIW around this time of year, makes you love the game even more. I have always thought that Rob Gallas should read this book or at least have someone give him the Cliff notes version of it. Veeck clearly displays a love for the game and it's fans. Sox management should take note.

Either way, that was a good review of the book, Brian26.

I don't know if you have read it yet, but I really like "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. I find it to be a very hilarious book.

Brian26
02-23-2004, 07:54 PM
Originally posted by VeeckAsInWreck
Either way, that was a good review of the book, Brian26.

I don't know if you have read it yet, but I really like "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. I find it to be a very hilarious book.

Thanks. I really should have taken notes when I was reading it. I know I left a ton of marvelous little stories out of my review, but I guess that's the beauty of reading it and letting people enjoy it on their own. I highly recommend it; it definitely surpassed expectations.

I'll check out "Ball Four" when I have time.

Brian26
02-24-2004, 01:11 PM
Originally posted by HITMEN OF 77
It's must have for the Sox fan along with the "White Sox Encyclopedia" and "Through Hope and Despair"

Where is the best place to get "Through Hope and Despair"?

Baby Fisk
02-24-2004, 01:15 PM
Originally posted by Brian26
Where is the best place to get "Through Hope and Despair"?
I got it through amazon.

Dan H
02-24-2004, 02:09 PM
Originally posted by Brian26
Where is the best place to get "Through Hope and Despair"?

Brian - I am the author of Through Hope and Despair. If you contact me at wallynn@aol.com, I will take care of shipping costs. Thanks for any interest.

SouthSideHitman
02-24-2004, 10:50 PM
I don't know how you can say that Will is too boring when there are long, when Veeck - As In Wreck contains painfully tedious descriptions of how exactly Bill got the funding together to purchase his teams. I think that both books are worth the slow passages for what they offer. Though that being said, VAIW was much better.

I think that a book section on the site would be great. And I would recommend Nine Innings for all.

Also, I'd just like to say how great it is that VAIW is being enjoyed by all. My father convinced the University of Chicago Press to republish the book in 2001 and it's sales have really helped out the press.