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Mon, 02.09.1914

Bill Veeck Jr. born

*Bill Veeck Jr. was born on this date in 1914. He was a white-American businessman and advocate for racial equity in baseball.

From Chicago, Illinois his parents were William L. Veeck Sr. and Grace Greenwood DeForest Veeck. His father was a sportswriter under the pen name Bill Bailey. After his father criticized the Cubs in his columns, owner William Wrigley dared him to take over the team and prove he could do better. Veeck Sr. did so in 1918 and built pennant winners in 1929, 1932, and 1935. While growing up, Bill Veeck attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In 1933, when his father died, Veeck left Kenyon College and eventually became club treasurer for the Cubs. In 1935 he married his first wife. In 1942, Veeck left Chicago and, in partnership with former Cubs star and manager Charlie Grimm, purchased the American Association Triple-A Milwaukee Brewers. After winning three pennants in five years Veeck sold his Milwaukee franchise in 1945 for a $275,000 profit.

While a half-owner of the Brewers, Veeck served for nearly three years in the United States Marine Corps during World War II in an artillery unit. During this time a recoiling artillery piece crushed his leg, requiring amputation first of the foot, and shortly after of the leg above the knee. Over the course of his life he had 36 operations on the leg.  He had a series of wooden legs. Veeck had been a fan of the Negro Leagues since his early teens. He had also admired Abe Saperstein's Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, which was based in Chicago. Saperstein saved Veeck from financial disaster early on in Milwaukee by giving him the right to promote the Globetrotters in the upper Midwest in the winter of 1941–42.

In the fall of 1942, Veeck met with Gerry Nugent, president of the Philadelphia Phillies, to discuss the possibility of buying the struggling National League team. He later wrote in his memoirs that he intended to buy the Phillies and stock the team's roster with stars from the Negro Leagues. Veeck quickly secured financing to buy the Phillies, and agreed in principle to buy the team from Nugent. While on his way to Philadelphia to close on the purchase, Veeck decided to alert MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Landis of his intentions. Although Veeck knew Landis was an ardent segregationist, he did not believe Landis would dare say black players were unwelcome while blacks were fighting in World War II. By the time he arrived in Philadelphia, Veeck discovered the Phillies had been officially taken over by the National League and that a new owner was being sought (the Phillies were ultimately sold to lumber baron William D. Cox). In 1946, Veeck became the owner of the American leagues Cleveland Indians. He immediately put the team's games on radio. He also moved the team to Cleveland Municipal Stadium permanently in 1947. The team had split their games between the larger Municipal Stadium and the smaller League Park since the 1930s, but Veeck concluded that League Park was far too small.

In July of that year he signed Larry Doby, the first black player to play in the American League.  Doby's first game was on July 5 and before the game, player-manager Lou Boudreau introduced Doby to his teammates. "One by one, Lou introduced me to each player Doby said. All the guys put their hand out, all but three. As soon as he could, Bill Veeck got rid of those three." The following year Veeck signed Satchel Paige to a contract, making the hurler the oldest rookie in major league history. In 1948, Cleveland won its first pennant and World Series since 1920. Famously, the following season Veeck buried the 1948 flag, once it became obvious the team could not repeat its championship in 1949.

Later that year, his first wife divorced him. Most of his money was tied up in the Indians, so he was forced to sell the team to fund the divorce settlement. One year later, Veeck married his second wife Mary Frances Ackerman. After the wedding, Veeck bought an 80% stake in the St. Louis Browns in 1951. One of Veeck's most memorable publicity stunts occurred during his tenure with the Browns was the appearance on August 19, 1951, by Eddie Gaedel, who stood 3 feet 7 inches tall and is the shortest person to appear in a Major League Baseball game. Veeck sent Gaedel to pinch-hit in the bottom of the first of the game. Wearing elf like shoes and "1/8" as his uniform number, Gaedel was walked on four straight pitches and then was pulled for a pinch runner. After the 1953 season, Veeck agreed in principle to sell half his stock in the Browns to Baltimore attorney Clarence Miles, the leader of the Baltimore group, and his other partners, who then moved the Browns to Baltimore, where they were renamed as the Orioles, which has been their name ever since.

In 1959, Veeck became head of a group that purchased a controlling interest in the Chicago White Sox, who went on to win their first pennant in 40 years. In 1961, due to poor health, Veeck sold his share of the team to John and Arthur Allyn. He made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Washington Senators, then in 1975, he repurchased the White Sox He was the only potential buyer willing to keep the White Sox in Chicago. This was around the time arbitration struck down the reserve clause and ushered in the era of free agency. Ironically Veeck had been the only baseball owner to testify in support of Curt Flood during his court case, at which Flood had attempted to gain free agency after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. Veeck presented a Bicentennial-themed "Spirit of '76" parade on Opening Day and he reactivated Minnie Minoso for eight at-bats, in order to give Minoso a claim towards playing in four decades; he did so again in 1980, to expand the claim to five. On July 12, 1979 Veeck, with assistance from son Mike and radio personality Steve Dahl, held one of his most infamous promotions, Disco Demolition Night, between games of a scheduled doubleheader, which resulted in a riot at Comiskey Park and a forfeit to the visiting Detroit Tigers.

He sold the White Sox in January 1981. He retired to his home in Chicago. In 1984 Veeck underwent two operations for lung cancer and two years later, in 1986, he died at the age of 71.  He was elected five years later to the Baseball Hall of Fame. When he died at age 71, his wife, Mary Frances, and eight children survived him. His son Mike Veeck is the owner of the independent minor-league St. Paul Saints. He and co-owner actor Bill Murray emulate many of Bill Veeck's promotional ideas with the Saints.

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