The Mets play a short two game series on Chicago’s south side, against the White Sox. When I think about White Sox baseball, I think of three things: Bill Veeck, an exploding scoreboard, and Disco Demolition NIght, of course the latter two would have never happened if not for Veeck.
Bill Veeck, however, should be noted for more than those two gimmick. Veeck at various times in his life owned the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the White Sox twice. He had winning teams in Cleveland and Chicago, but didn’t fair too well in St. Louis. In fact, Veeck sold the Browns to the group, that moved to team to Baltimore and named them the Orioles.
As the owner of the Cleveland franchise, Veeck’s Indians became the first American league team to become integrated when Larry Doby was called up. A year after, Veeck started a lifelong relationship with none other than the great Satchel Paige. In 1948, Veeck’s Indians would go all the way and win the World Series.
In 1951, Veeck purchased the majority interest in the old St. Louis Browns. As owner of the Browns, Veeck pulled the stunt he is probably best known for, by signing a midget, Eddie Gaedel to an MLB contract.
Gaedel was brought in to pinch hit, and of course he drew a walk. Soon after, MLB instituted a minimum height requirement. Also as owner of the Browns, Veeck declared a war on the Cardinals, trying to drive them out of town.
Needless to say Veeck’s attempt was in vain and unsuccessful, and ultimately it was the Browns that were forced to leave town.
An interesting point here about Veeck, while owning the Browns, he realized that for baseball to truly have a fair balance the teams would need to share television revenues. The other owners all laughed at him, but as time would prove, Veeck was right.
That brings us Veeck’s ownership of the White Sox, part one. In 1959 Veeck became the head of the group that purchased the White Sox. The 1959 Go-Go Sox went on to win the World Series that year. The following year the exploding scoreboard came to Comiskey Field. Whenever a White Sox player hit a homer, the scoreboard would ( and still does), shoot off fireworks and play music. Keep in mind this was 1959, the Marlins just got a silly homerun scoreboard of their own last year. Due to health issues Veeck had to sell the Sox in 1961, but no worries, he repurchased them in 1975.
One of the things Veeck did with the 1975 era White Sox was introduce “turn of the century” baseball uniforms. Yes, there were a few games that the Chicago White Sox wore short pants to play. A year or two later Veeck came up with his most infamous promotion, Disco Demolition NIght. This took place between games of a twi-night doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. Fans were invited to bring and destroy their disco albums. Sadly, things got so out of control, that a riot ensued and the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader.
Bill Veeck is one of baseball’s most colorful characters. There is so much more I could write about him. But, like with most characters, people either loved him or hated him. But no matter what people thought about him, there was no denying that he was a man who was way ahead of his time and his peers.