Veeck Struggling Physically but Thriving Professionally

April 28, 1948

The Indians will head to the South Side of Chicago undefeated, but without owner Bill Veeck.

Veeck is returning to Cleveland for further medical checkups on his leg. Veeck, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, lost his foot in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

The series with the White Sox would have marked a homecoming of sorts for Veeck, a Chicago native whose father, William Sr., was a newspaper reporter turned executive with the Cubs. The younger Veeck grew up around the game of baseball, and planted the ivy at Wrigley Field. He became the Cubs’ treasurer after his father died unexpectedly.

In 1941, Veeck left Chicago and bought the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. The team won three pennants in five years under Veeck’s ownership — including three years where he was in the Marines. Veeck, ever the baseball man, was making trades in a combat zone. But the team was equally as famous for its promotions. Because of a deal he signed with Miller Brewing, the stadium always was stocked with beer, making it a destination for drinks, regardless of who was playing. And he catered to the folks working round-the-clock in the factories with morning games.

After coming home from WWII, Veeck wanted to get to the major leagues. A deal to buy the Pirates fell through, but Veeck wasn’t too concerned about that, coming instead to Cleveland, the “Best Location in the Nation,” where he fronted the syndicate that bought the team in 1946.

Veeck, a hustler and a huckster, gave the fans more opportunities to the see the Tribe, moving from intimate League Park to cavernous Municipal Stadium, where, in his first year as owner, the team drew more than 1 million in attendance.

But he didn’t wait for them to come to him. He could be found at any luncheon, civic group or festival from Buffalo to Youngstown to Sandusky, talking up the Indians and selling people on why they should come see the team.

Veeck, a member of the Cleveland NAACP, is also a racial trailblazer. He tried to buy the Phillies in 1942, ostensibly to stock the team with talent from the Negro Leagues, and integrated the American League with his signing of Larry Doby last year.

We wish Veeck well with his medical issues. We don’t say problems because Veeck never looked at it as losing a foot. He thought of it as adding an ashtray. “I’m not handicapped,” he said. “I’m a cripple.”

Photo: Cleveland Memory Project

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