Dickson: Celebrating Bill Veeck, on the 100th anniversary of his birth
From SABR member Paul Dickson at The National Pastime Museum on February 9, 2014:
February 9, 2014, would have been Bill Veeck’s 100th birthday. Bill died in 1986 after leaving many marks on the game. His most visible contribution was his impact on the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field in Chicago, where his handiwork can be seen in the ivy-covered outfield brick wall, a field of view dominated by a traditional manually operated scoreboard and an overall scale and proportion that seem perfect for the game.
This was Veeck’s earliest influence on baseball. Bill’s father, William Veeck, had been president of the Cubs, and young Bill grew up working for and with the Cubs during school vacations. When his father died unexpectedly in 1933, Bill dropped out of college and was hired by Phil Wrigley, who had taken over the club after his father, William Wrigley, died in 1932.
Veeck began work as an office boy but quickly took on more responsibility. His role with the Cubs was more and more directed at putting fans in the seats and making them happy. One of his early jobs was to roam the stands and talk with fans to determine their wishes and bring back suggestions that would make coming to the ballpark more enjoyable. This assignment gained him a feature article in The Sporting News in early 1935, which pointed out: “Contacting the public is the duty of every official of every club, but Veeck is the first to have such a full time assignment.”
Using Veeck as his roaming fan ambassador was part of a larger Wrigley marketing scheme. Among other things, Wrigley had his staff promoting the Cubs in the dead of winter. In 1936 Veeck was given the assignment of renovating the ballpark as a bucolic surcease from the urban world around the stadium. Veeck redesigned the bleachers, added concession stands, and in the process learned to listen to and cater to the needs of the fans who paid for the tickets.
This page was last updated February 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm MST.