Bill Veeck, Jr. Biography
Summary of the life and baseball career of Bill Veeck, Jr.
William Veeck Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 9, 1914. His father, Bill Veeck Sr. became president of the Chicago Cubs in 1917. During his youth, the younger Veeck met many famous ballplayers and worked as an office boy for the Cubs.
Veeck and former Cubs first base star Charlie Grimm borrowed enough money to buy the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers franchise in 1941. Before World War II, Veeck and Grimm bought and sold players left and right while trying to balance their sparse budget. In 1944, Veeck joined the United States Marines and was sent to the South Pacific where he became seriously injured. Veeck had 10 surgeries that resulted in his right leg being amputated. He was then fitted with an artificial leg. Upon his return to baseball, the Brewers won 3 American Association pennants and erased the club's debt.
Veeck bought the Cleveland Indians in 1946. After only two and a half years under new ownership, they won the American League pennant for the first time in 28 years. The Indians also went on to beat the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series. In 1947, Veeck signed the American League's first black player, Larry Doby. In 1948, he signed Satchel Paige who, at age 42, was the oldest rookie in major league baseball. These signings upset rival owners but proved to be valuable assets to the 1948 World Championship team. After building the Indians team, Veeck was forced to sell them in 1949 over financial problems.
Veeck purchased the last place St. Louis Browns in 1951. The Browns attendance grew nearly 60% in 1952, however, the team itself showed minimal improvement that year. After the 1952 season, Veeck attempted to move the Browns to Milwaukee but was blocked by the other American League owners. In 1953, a near bankrupt Veeck sold the Browns and a year later the American League allowed the Browns to move to Baltimore.
For 5 years, Veeck stayed away from baseball but in 1959 he returned and bought the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox won their first American League pennant in 40 years at the end of their first season with Veeck. To add excitement to the game, Veeck introduced the first exploding scoreboard that spewed fireworks when the White Sox scored a home run. Veeck was also the first owner to put players' names on the backs of their uniforms, which is commonplace in many sports today. The White Sox doubled their attendance figures under Veeck's guidance. In June of 1961, illness forced Veeck to sell the White Sox.
In the late 1960's, Veeck turned to thoroughbred racing and purchased Suffolk Downs Race Track in Massachusetts. He later sold his racing business. He owned the Chicago White Sox once again from 1976 to 1981. He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Veeck died on January 2, 1986 in Chicago, Illinois. He was cremated and his remains were laid to rest at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.