Saturday, October 07, 2006

One "of the best sports books ever written"

In "The Man Who Brought Joy to Mudville," the Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley looked back at Veeck -- As in Wreck, the classic autobiography of Bill Veeck, written with the sports journalist Ed Linn and published in 1962.

Veeck -- As in Wreck was written and published shortly after Veeck had to sell the White Sox in 1961 because of ill health, so it doesn't cover the remaining quarter-century of his life, but that really doesn't matter, because the years between 1941 and 1961 were his best. He describes that period with his characteristic mix of pride and self-disparagement:

"I've won pennants and finished dead last; I've set attendance records and been close to bankruptcy. At the age of fifteen, I was taking care of Ladies' Day passes at Wrigley Field. I owned my first ball club when I was twenty-eight. I have operated five clubs -- three in the major leagues and two in the minors -- and in three of the towns I won pennants and broke attendance records. Two of the three teams to beat the Yankees since I came to the American League in 1946 were my teams, the 1948 Cleveland Indians and the 1959 Chicago White Sox. The only other team, the 1954 Indians, was made up for the most part of my old players."

But -- and what a wonderful "but" it is -- no matter what he achieved, "I would still be remembered, in the end, as the man who sent a midget up to bat." That's right. It was Veeck who in August 1951 hired the 3-foot-7, 65-pound Eddie Gaedel -- "a professional midget" who "made his living by displaying himself, the only way we permit a midget to earn a living in our enlightened society" -- to pinch-hit for the St. Louis Browns, reducing everyone in the ballpark, including the opposing pitcher and his teammates, to helpless laughter.

Read the rest of the review here.

David Uhlin wrote an enthusiastic review of Veeck -- As in Wreck when it was reissued in 2001.

--Marshal Zeringue