Reviews

Bill Veeck had been out of baseball for four years when The Hustler's Handbook was originally published in 1965 and it appeared to many pundits that he was out of the game for good. "Sport Shirt Bill" had sold his ownership interest in the Chicago White Sox in 1961 due to illness and had been thwarted by the "Lords of the Realm" in pursuing an American League franchise for Los Angeles, though he would return in 1975 as owner of the ChiSox.

 

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And with one book already published -- Veeck as in Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck -- the impresario of sports promotion, with co-author Ed Linn, appeared to be giving his farewell to the game through wit, wisdom and a number of brushback pitches on his critics in Major League Baseball. This edition is a September 2009 softcover reprint from Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.

"As the first assignment, class, we will now all burn our dictionaries and get on to the real definitions, complete with illustrations, gesticulation and grimaces....," writes Veeck, as he tackles the fine art of marketing. "Department stores, automobile agencies and other sportsmen and philanthropists are more than willing to donate gifts in return for the advertising and goodwill."

There is a sailboat presented to Nellie Fox of the White Sox on "Nellie Fox Night" and a grand plan for honoring southpaw fans due to the Milwaukee Braves non-use of left-handed pitching great Warren Spahn, along with mainstays in the Veeck repertoire: Christmas in July, Name's the Same, the Money-Back Guarantee and a gala Mother's Day celebration. One of his ideas became a major winner in ballparks: "Bat Day has become the biggest promotion of late. We started it in St. Louis (the Browns) back in 1952 when a guy who dealt in bankrupt firms came around with a shipload of homeless bats.

"It is a surefire promotion, and it will remain surefire so long as they don't get greedy and try to repeat it on alternate weeks.

"They probably will."

Legends come to life, but oftentimes in ways that could have never been predicted. "Wake up the echoes at the Hall of Fame and you will find that baseball's immortals were a rowdy and raucous group of men who would climb down off their plaques and go rampaging through Cooperstown (New York), taking spoils, like the Third Army busting through Germany," writes Veeck. "Horace Stoneham has only two occupations in life. He owns the (San Francisco) Giants and he drinks.

"Some of the most wicked people I know have taken advantage of him."

Veeck has visionary comments on race in the game -- not the pennant variety -- and surrounding an emerging international hot spot for talented players that would revolutionize MLB many years later: "At the root of the difficulty is the white man's belief - why is this so difficult to shake? -  that the Negro should be grateful for being allowed to play in the big leagues.

"The Negro ballplayers reshuffled the power in the past decade, the Spanish-speaking players are reshuffling it again in this decade, and the Japanese will be coming on in waves in the next decade."

The explosive revelations on the 1919 Black Sox Scandal from a journal of a White Sox secretary, an intriguing take on the battle in the Big Apple between the hapless Mets and juggernaut Yankees and insight on how deals are cut in the proverbial smoke-filled room make for a refreshing read, no matter the season.

"Baseball, like loan-sharking, is a humanitarian enterprise," Veeck writes. "When the Supreme Court says baseball isn't run like a business, everybody jumps up and down with joy. When I say the same thing, everybody throws pointy objects at me."

AHP Rating: 4 Balls

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