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Bill Veeck. For baseball fans the name draws to mind instantly the ill fated Disco Night and Eddie Gaedel, the shortest player to ever bat in a MLB game. But there is so much more to the story and a debt that baseball fans the world over owe to Bill Veeck. He was so much more than baseball. He was an innovator, a free spirit, and an advocate for racial equality in a time when many baseball owners wanted nothing to do with it.
Relying on primary documents and more than a 100 interviews Paul Dickson builds a well crafted story that takes us on a journey through Bill's life. Paul begins with Bill Senior, Bill's father, to give us a sense of where the passion for baseball came from. Bill Senior was a self made man, with little education, but worked his way up to being president of the Chicago Cubs and Bill Jr. learned at his feet.
Working with his father Bill helped make Wrigley field the premier place to be, even introducing the famed ivy wall to the stadium. And that was just the start of his baseball career and a life well lived. He owned multiple teams, served in World War II--not as honorary member or stateside serving soldier, but in combat zones constantly asking to be sent to the front lines to help fight the war. He endured a leg injury that later led to amputation and multiple surgeries throughout his life that he endured without complaint. He signed the first black baseball player for the American League and pushed for racial equality throughout baseball. He walked with Martin Luther King Jr., he invented the exploding scoreboard, reached out to female fans and made them feel welcome, and even sat in the bleacher seats with the rest of the fans.
Paul does an excellent job of creating a readable story, one that is not overburdened with facts and figures, but brings Bill Veeck--the human being--to life. He touches upon the good and the bad in Bill's life--his regrets about his failed first marriage and his loneliness. More importantly he shows us that Bill was more than just a fan of baseball, but a fan of making people feel welcome. From inviting them to his home, taking players and people under his wing to help follow their dreams, to trying to challenge the world and helping it change.
The greatest compliment I can give this book is that I don't own many (if any) biographies, but I can't wait to buy this one. 5 out 5 stars