This week in 1986, Bill Veeck made the front page one last time in Cleveland.
Veeck hadn’t owned the Indians in more than 35 years at that point. In fact, he hadn’t owned a baseball team in six years. But his death of cardiac arrest at the age of 71 gave baseball fans in three cities one last opportunity to claim him as one of their own.
The 1945 World Series was, until this year, the last appearance in the Fall Classic for the Chicago Cubs.
It also pitted managers against each other that represented the Indians’ past – and possibly its future.
The Tigers manager was Steve O’Neill, who was originally signed by the Athletics but played the bulk of his career for the Indians. He was a part of the 1920 championship team, and ended his career with stints in Boston, the Bronx, and St. Louis.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the Indians perpetually seemed to be candidates for a move, with cities like Houston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Seattle and Oakland mentioned as possible landing spots.
But a dispute over Cleveland Stadium opened the door for a suitor to potentially make the Indians the FOURTH team in New York City.
Today, night baseball is almost taken for granted.
Unless you’re on the North Side of Chicago, day games are a novelty – for the opener, the occasional holiday and a getaway day game on Wednesday or Thursday.
But in the 1930s, night baseball was a novelty – and it took World War II for it to take hold widely.
Seventy years ago Wednesday, baseball innovator and mogul Bill Veeck and a small handful of other investors officially purchased the Cleveland Indians organization, setting the stage less than two years later for one of the most exciting pennant chases the game of baseball had ever seen and one of a handful of sports moments forever celebrated in the city of Cleveland.
Veeck, then 32 years old, had spent his life involved in the game of baseball.
The 1948 World Championship was the crowning moment in Bill Veeck’s career as an owner – and one of the loneliest in his life. Veeck would own another pennant winner, but no other world champion. On September 23, 1949, he led a funeral procession out to the outfield to bury the pennant, with the Indians mathematically eliminated from the race. That fall, Veeck’s wife Eleanore filed for divorce, and Veeck was forced to sell the team to pay for it.
In 1951, Veeck, newly married, bought the St. Louis Browns. His idea was to run off the Cardinals, and with a mix of his own wacky promotions and Cardinals owner Fred Saigh’s income tax problems, it appeared he might do so. But Saigh sold the team to Gussie Busch, heir to the brewing fortune and a St. Louis institution. Veeck sought to move the team to Baltimore, but was blocked by baseball owners and was forced to sell the team – which then moved to Baltimore.