08.31.09

The Saul Bellow of Baseball is Back in Print

Posted in Baseball at 2:20 pm by

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[Veeck ...  first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.]

I always liked White Sox owner Bill Veeck, Jr.  He started his career planting the ivy in Wrigley Field and ended it on the South Side burning down his own infield on Disco Demolition night.  He only owned losers and personified Chicago’s love of its own low-rent self-esteem. Another reason to like Bill Jr. is his literary career, which includes his autobiography, Veeck — as in Wreck, Thirty Tons a Day, and The Hustler’s Handbook “ all written for him by, excuse me, “with,” Ed Linn.  The Hustler’s Handbook just got reissued, and reviewed (favorably), in The LA Times by George Ducker, but I think the best sales pitch for this book is Veeck’s own wisdom:

“The great portion of any ball game consists of the pitcher holding the ball or throwing it to the catcher … Anything that can somehow turn that frozen tableau into a scene fraught with drama and excitement has solved about 75 percent of your problems.”

Not only that, he understands the relationship of a team to its fans. Here he is on the paradox of early 1960s Mets supporters: “No other city is so confident of its own preeminence that it could afford to take such an open delight in its own bad taste.” Chicago Cubs fans of the present day, take note.

And quoted in an Amazon customer review by Steven Hellerstedt:

“Yogi is a completely manufactured product. He is a case study of this country’s unlimited ability to gull itself and be gulled…. It pleased the public to think that this odd-looking little man with the great natural ability had a knack for mouthing humorous truth with the sort of primitive peasant wisdom we rather expect from our sports heroes.”

On Leo Durocher and racism: “Leo himself is without any racial consciousness – or even unconsciousness. Leo looks on each human being with the purest of motives; i.e., what can this guy do to make Leo Durocher’s passage through life easier, more fun and more profitable?”

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