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April 19, 2012
Biography of Baseball Legend Bill Veeck Is Subject of Book Discussion
Veeck Integrated American League, Among Other Achievements
Bill Veeck was a baseball impresario and an innovator who was also an independent spirit and an unflinching advocate of racial equality. Relying on primary sources, including more than 100 interviews, noted baseball writer Paul Dickson has crafted a richly detailed portrait of this American original.
Dickson will discuss and sign "Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick" (Walker & Co., 2012) on Tuesday, May 1, at noon in the Whittall Pavilion, located on the ground floor of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, part of the Books & Beyond author series, is sponsored by the Center for the Book. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The Humanities and Social Sciences Division, where Dickson did much of his research, is co-sponsoring the program.
Bill Veeck (1914–1986) was born into baseball. His sportswriter father became president of the Chicago Cubs, and Bill later worked for owner Phil Wrigley, rebuilding Wrigley Field to achieve the famed ambiance that exists today. In his late 20s, he bought into his first team, the American Association Milwaukee Brewers. As World War II intensified, Veeck volunteered for combat duty, enduring a leg injury that led to amputation, a lifetime of operations and silent suffering. On returning, he bought the Cleveland Indians in 1946 -- the first of the Midwestern teams he would own, preceding the St. Louis Browns (1951–53) and the Chicago White Sox (twice, 1959–61 and 1975–81).
Though foiled in an earlier plan to bring Negro League players to the majors, in the summer of 1947, Veeck integrated his team on field and off, signing Larry Doby – the American League’s first black player – and hiring the first black public relations officer, trainer and scout. A year later, he signed the legendary black pitcher Satchel Paige, who helped win the 1948 World Series, Cleveland’s last championship to this day. Veeck’s promotional genius was second to none, endearing him to fans in every city, while his feel for the game led him to propose innovations way ahead of their time. Veeck’s deep sense of fairness helped usher in free agency, breaking the stranglehold owners had on players; indeed, he was the only owner to testify in support of Curt Flood during his landmark reserve-clause challenge.
"Bill Veeck" brings fully to life a transformational, visionary figure who spent a lifetime challenging baseball’s and society’s well-entrenched status quo.
Paul Dickson is the author of several notable baseball books, including "The Dickson Baseball Dictionary," "The Unwritten Rules of Baseball," "The Hidden Language of Baseball" and "The Joy of Keeping Score." He is also the author of the classic narrative history "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century" and the co-author of the acclaimed "The Bonus Army: An American Epic." He lives in Garrett Park, Md.
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