Widows of Veeck, Smith keep pioneering legacy alive

From Ben Strauss at the New York Times on August 22, 2012, with quotes from SABR member Paul Dickson:

A welcome breeze blew in from Lake Michigan as the two older women, one white and one African-American, sat in the garden of their South Side retirement home and joked and reminisced about five decades of friendship knit tight by the game of baseball.

Mary Frances Veeck, 91, is the widow of Bill Veeck, the gadfly who wreaked humorous havoc as an owner of three teams but was also instrumental in integrating the sport 65 years ago. Wyonella Smith, also 91, is the widow of Wendell Smith, who took on baseball’s racial barriers as a sportswriter in Pittsburgh and in Chicago.

Both men are honored in the Hall of Fame. Both are long dead. But the bond between the two women is still strong, and as they proceed together in the 10th decade of their lives, they remain a charming and enduring symbol of their husbands’ efforts to push the sport forward.

They can, it should be noted, also banter like ballplayers.

“That is just lovely,” Mrs. Veeck said to Mrs. Smith as she pointed to a dress that a young woman nearby was wearing. “I think that’s something I’d like to do — work in a ladies’ department store and help dress the girls of today.”

Mrs. Smith said, “I think you’d be good at it.”

Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/sports/baseball/widows-of-bill-veeck-and-wendell-smith-keep-a-pioneering-legacy-alive.html

Originally published: August 23, 2012. Last Updated: August 23, 2012.