*1946 | CLEVELAND, OHIO – Groucho Marx once said, “I would not join a club that would have someone like me for a member.” Non-conformist Bill Veeck probably shared some of that attitude, but on this date in 1946 he joined a club he would often be at odds with – major league baseball owners.
Veeck was a showman who would stop at practically nothing to get fans in the stands.
Veeck put together a group, which included entertainer Bob Hope, that inked a deal for the Cleveland Indians on June 22, 1946. This was the start of a career as a major league club owner. He later ran the St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox (twice) franchises.
Veeck was a showman who would stop at practically nothing to get fans in the stands. He employed a midget who had one at bat for the Browns and walked; the pitcher had a tough time finding 3’7″ Eddie Gaedel‘s strike zone. The commissioner’s office didn’t like the idea and immediately barred Gaedel from baseball, but not before his one at bat.
There were a number of Veeck innovations fellow owners originally balked at that have since become commonplace; player names on uniforms, fireworks displays, food other than peanuts and Cracker Jacks available at the ball park.
He also understood the importance of winning. Only three teams other than the New York Yankees won the American League pennant from 1947 to 1959, two of them were Veeck’s – the ‘48 Indians and ‘59 White Sox. Each team set attendance records under Veeck’s leadership as well.
Richard Dugan, United Press (UP), June 23, 1946, Cleveland, Ohio
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