Showing posts with label Bill Veeck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Veeck. Show all posts

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cool Papa Bell shares the details of Satchel Paige's tryout with the Cleveland Indians in 1948

Cool Papa Bell, Negro League Hall of Fame speedster, shares in the video below the details of Satchel Paige's tryout with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. The audio of Bell's interview is part of a larger project by the Baseball Hall of Fame to digitize their vast audio library. Paige was signed by Bill Veeck and made an immediate splash with the Indians, debuting to a sellout crowd on his 42nd birthday.

Cool Papa Bell (bottom center) with Satchel Paige (middle row, far right) on the 1937 Ciudad Trujillo team

Paige finished with a 6-1 record, helping to lead the Indians to the 1948 World Series. Due to the dominant pitching performances of the Indians starting rotation, Paige was only called upon to pitch one inning during the series. Despite his limited role in the World Series, Veeck's investment paid dividends through Paige's stellar work in the regular season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bud Thomas went once around the bases for the St. Louis Browns in 1951

John “Bud” Thomas, a former infielder who played with the St. Louis Browns in 1951, passed away on Saturday in Sedalia, Missouri. He was 86.

The Browns first noticed Thomas in 1947 when he was the shortstop for the West squad in the 1945 Esquire All-American Game at the Polo Grounds that featured Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as honorary managers. He signed with the club in 1947, and within four years he made the majors by climbing his way from the lowest rung of the minor leagues.
Bud Thomas

In his brief time with Bill Veeck’s team, Thomas hit .350 (7-for-20) while playing flawless defense at shortstop, handling 30 chances without an error. One of those seven precious hits was a home run against the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The memory of an unfortunate misplay in the field the inning prior hung a cloud over one of his shining major league moments.

“They gave the guy [Alex Kellner] a hit, but I made an error that let them score three runs,” Thomas said in a 2011 interview. “I replayed that in my mind forever. They scored and it put them ahead 3-4 runs.”

Despite his fielding gaffe, Thomas approached his next at-bat determined to jump on his preferred pitch, a high fastball.

“I come up and there’s nobody on base, and I hit a home run. I know where the pitch was because it was my favorite pitch, high around the letters. I usually hustle down to first base and I didn’t look to see it go out or anything like that. I’m running around and the defense wasn’t moving. I continued running and I think that ball went out of the ballpark. I keep running and nobody was saying anything and I round second base and I say, ‘God I hope to hell that’s a home run. It’s going to be embarrassing if I didn’t hit that out.’”

Thomas returned to the Browns dugout and nobody got up to congratulate him. Sixty years later, the memory of being ignored by his teammates after hitting his first (and only) home run in the major leagues put an even greater damper on what should have been a joyous event.

“I round third base, I get home, and I get on the bench,” he recalled. “I don’t mind saying this now, nobody on that team or the bench never said a thing about it. Nobody said a word. It really got me. That was the recollection. It wasn’t the silent treatment; I didn’t know what the hell it was. That’s [just] the way it was.”

After his standout performance in his short September trial, Thomas was sure that he would get a shot at making the Browns out of spring training in 1952. He later discovered that the cash strapped Browns were looking to make a quick financial play on Thomas’ brief success.

“I had such a great year in ’51,” he said. “I found out when I got there, they were running ballplayers in and out of there all year long to get something going. They figured if they could get someone up there and he showed promise, they could sell him. This is all hindsight. At the time, you don’t think that way. All that other stuff comes out later.”

The Browns sold Thomas’ contract to Toronto of the International League. A surprised Thomas found out not via communication with the team’s front office, but from The Sporting News.

“I’m standing in front of our house and my neighbor said, ‘I thought I you were going to take spring training with the Browns?’ he recalled. “I said, ‘I am.’ He said, ‘Not according to what I read.’ I said, ‘What did you read?’ He said, ‘The Sporting News said you were going to go to Toronto.’ I said, “Get me The Sporting News.’ Sure enough I was traded to Toronto.”

The man who once called future Hall of Famers Leon Day and Satchel Paige his teammates while playing with the Browns organization was out of professional baseball by 1953, only two years after his brief, but shining run in the major leagues. The superintendent of schools in his hometown of Sedalia asked him to come back and teach. He gladly obliged.

“I was primarily an administrator,” he said. “I came back and I was a teacher. I was the first student teacher that came out of the college (University of Central Missouri) that went to Sedalia. I became principal of an elementary school for five years, then I opened another elementary school. For my last 11 years, I was the assistant superintendent of schools.”

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Video: Satchel Paige pitching in 1957 with Miami Marlins

The whirling wonder Satchel Paige was still knocking them down as he entered his 50s as a member of the Miami Marlins. The Marlins were a AAA club in the International League operated by Paige's long time supporter, Bill Veeck. Recently video has surfaced of Paige pitching with the Marlins from Labor Day in 1957, when he spun a shutout against the Havana Cubans.

Satchel Paige - Miami Marlins

Below is the video from the Wolfson Archive, showing Paige not only pitching, but making his way to the plate as well. Rare footage indeed of the legendary hurler. You will also find the September 11, 1957 issue of The Sporting News mentioning Paige's shutout of Havana.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Video - Bucky Dent sharing magical tales from his Yankees career

Bucky Dent with Bruce Apar of the Harrison Apar Foundation
Bucky Dent regaled the crowd for almost 20 minutes at the 2013 Harrison Apar Foundation Columbus Day Golf Classic with stories from his Yankees career, sharing insight about his famous home run, his run-ins with George Steinbrenner, and playing in shorts as one of Bill Veeck's wild promotions.

Click here to read about the highlights of Dent's appearance at the wonderful fundraiser.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Frank Saucier's promising career derailed by more than Veeck's midget intervention

Frank Saucier once batted an astonishing .446 in 1949 while playing with the Wichita Falls team of the Big State League; a total that to this day stands as one of the highest ever for a single professional season. Yet over 60 years later, Saucier’s claim to fame is not his towering feats at the plate, rather it is the distinction of being the only player in Major League Baseball’s history to be replaced by a midget.

On August 19, 1951, Saucier returned from right field to the bench of the St. Louis Browns at the bottom of the first inning after helping to hold the Detroit Tigers to a scoreless first frame. The events that transpired after Saucier went to grab a bat from the rack to face Tigers’ hurler Bob Cain permanently engrained Saucier’s name in the depths of baseball’s annals.
Frank Saucier Portrait / N. Diunte
Before revealing the details of Saucier’s historical moment, let’s go back a few months to the beginning of the 1951 season. He began the season on the suspended list when he held out for a bonus and refused to sign his contract. Saucier turned his attention to managing oil fields in Okmulgee, Okla., content with the money he was making away from baseball. With the season marching along and no attempt from management to make amends on his contract demands, Saucier donning a major league uniform in 1951 seemed almost as absurd as a midget taking the field. The thought of either happening at the time might have been a foregone conclusion, unless your name was Bill Veeck.

Veeck led a group of investors that bought the Browns midway through the 1951 season, and one of the first moves he made was to personally visit Saucier to persuade him to join the club. After an hour of discussions, Saucier penned his name on a major league contract worth $10,000. Veeck hoped that the popular Saucier would energize the fan base and get the turnstiles moving. Slightly over two weeks after he was signed, Saucier made his major league debut on July 22, 1951. Rusty after taking a three month break from playing, Saucier developed bloody blisters on his hands that made it hard for him to swing a bat, and acute bursitis that made it hard for him to throw. The World War II veteran soldiered on for the rest of the season, with most of his appearances coming as a pinch runner. So why was Saucier in the lineup on July 19th?

A week prior to the game, Veeck alerted the newspapers in Saucier's hometown of Washington, Mo., that he would be playing. The news of his appearance brought a few extra thousand people to the game, something the Browns desperately needed. Saucier hoped Cain didn’t have his best stuff that day because he was in no shape to take a hack.

"I go over to the bat rack and pick up my Louisville Slugger, model K44, and I step up to the plate. And I hope (Tigers pitcher) Bob Cain walks me because I sure can't swing the bat," Saucier said to

He didn’t even get the opportunity to dig his cleats in the batter’s box when his at-bat was interrupted by a stark announcement that boomed across the stadium.

"When the announcer called Eddie, I was thinking this is both the greatest act of show business I've ever seen, plus it's the easiest money I've ever made," Saucier said.

Three-foot-seven-inch midget Eddie Gaedel waddled up to the plate, and true to Saucier’s hopes, Cain couldn’t find the plate. Thoroughly distracted by Gaedel’s miniscule strike zone, he walked him on four pitches. After a few waves to the crowd, Gaedel eventually made it to first base and was replaced by Jim Delsing. Gaedel walked off the field, never to be heard from again by his baseball teammates. He died at 36 in 1961 after suffering a heart attack.

As for Saucier, he finished the season with a .073 average (1-14); limited by the nagging injuries that plagued him all season. He was recalled to active duty by the United States Navy in April, 1952 to serve in the Korean War. Four years after starting his baseball career, it was over. He spent two years in the service, receiving his release from active duty in April, 1954. He returned to the oil business, and then became a financial consultant in Amarillo, Texas before his retirement. The baseball fields at his alma mater, Westminster College are named in his honor. At the age of 86, Saucier is living in Amarillo, the last living player from the St. Louis Browns that participated in the July 19th affair. Saucier has embraced his role in baseball history, generously sending out numerous articles about his career after recent correspondence with him via mail (pictured below).

A tip of the cap goes to Bob Lemke's article, Frank Saucier's brief but memorable career now commemorated, which provided valuable background information for this piece.

Frank Saucier Autographed Photo and Card / N. Diunte

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: Early Wynn, the Go-Go White Sox and the 1959 World Series

Early Wynn CoverEarly Wynn, the Go-Go White Sox and the 1959 World Series"
Lew Freedman
McFarland Publishing, 2009
223 pages

A man so tenacious on the field that he threw at his own son after he hit one back up the middle, and claimed that he would knock down his own grandmother if she dug in against him, Early Wynn was the catalyst for the Chicago White Sox 1959 World Series appearance. A rare four decade player, an aging Wynn was brought to the White Sox at the end of the 1957 season in exchange for Minnie Minoso. Bill Veeck apparently thought that Wynn had one more great season left in his arm, and Veeck was correctly, as Wynn would be victorious 22 times en route to a Cy Young award and World Series appearance in 1959.

Freedman weaves in anecdotes from the few living players from that 1959 team to chronicle the season's happenings. Sadly, almost three-quarters of the team are deceased. An especially poignant moment is when the living players gather in Chicago in 2008 and they collectively acknowledge that their reunion reminds them of the many members of the team that have passed. We hear from the likes of Billy Pierce, Jim Rivera, Bob Shaw, Jim Landis and Turk Lown as they chime in on Wynn and their own ups and downs during their pennant winning journey.

Freedman does his best to merge the three topics of his book, Wynn, the "Go-Go White Sox" and the 1959 World Series by examining the roles of Manager Al Lopez, General Manager Frank "Trader" Lane and owners Veeck and Charles Comiskey Jr.. What you are left with is a solid assembly of the 1959 White Sox and how Wynn led the charges all the way to the World Series.