Okay. So, it happened hundreds or thousands of times before. That certainly doesn’t mean a Veeck public speaking engagement in downtown Chicago during baseball season isn’t worthwhile. Such events are always entertaining. The latest case in point was the Mike Veeck SABR 51 speech.
The audience gave not one..but two standing ovations to Mike Veeck.
The event marked the 51st annual gathering of the Society for American Baseball Research. Under the leadership of CEO Scott Bush, the organization has grown to more than 6,000 baseball lovers around the world. Some members currently work in major league baseball or minor league baseball, or they have in the past. Other people join simply because they identify as “just plain fans” of America’s pastime.
The Mike Veeck SABR 51 speech was a custom fit.
It was made for a baseball audience in Chicago during the middle of the 2023 season. The speech was appropriately titled, “Fun Is Good: A Veeck Family Legacy.” And being the third generation of his well-known baseball family, Mike Veeck had plenty of material to talk about.
“I have seen Mike talk roughly two dozen times,” said SABR’s Scott Bush. “And this was the best I’ve ever seen him. He was on fire.”
As the guy who made “Fun Is Good” mainstream, the Mike Veeck SABR 51 speech meant everyone had a good laugh. (Many actually). However, all the while it was important to keep history in play with people who continually enjoy learning about baseball.
Naturally, much of Mike’s speech highlighted the life and work of his Dad.
Bill Veeck was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
The honor came 10 years after he left Major League Baseball, and 5 years after he passed away. In the Windy City, Bill worked in the front office for the Chicago Cubs. Later, he owned the Chicago White Sox, twice. The first time was in the late 1950s. The second time was in the 1970s when he re-purchased the club to prevent it from moving to Seattle.
A few years into the second ownership stint, Mike Veeck did his infamous promotion, Disco Demolition Night. The event created a mob scene on the south side of Chicago and unexpectedly led to Mike Veeck’s career and life going south.
Mike’s mother, Mary Frances Veeck was a key member of Team Veeck. She was by her husband Bill’s side throughout all the Chicago years. She was heavily involved in the ballclubs and also managed the real Veeck “home games.” These were the ones played out with the 9 children they shared.
William Veeck, Sr. Started the family legacy in baseball.
However sadly, he died of leukemia long before Mike was born. So, at the Mike Veeck SABR 51 speech and always, he must rely on hearsay and history in keeping alive his grandfather’s underrated legacy. William Veeck, Sr. was a Chicago sportswriter who eventually became president of the Cubs. Among his greatest contributions to the game was preserving its integrity following the devastating 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal.
Back to Mike, of course, there is also the rest of his baseball career spanning nearly 50 years in the majors and minors. He could also talk forever about his family, wife, Libby, and kids Night Train and Rebecca. And last but definitely not least, there is a new Netflix documentary on Mike Veeck coming out in September. THE SAINT OF SECOND CHANCES is directed by Academy-Award winner, Morgan Neville, and Jeff Malmberg.
But unfortunately, there was only one hour allotted for the Mike Veeck SABR 51 speech. Nonetheless, the audience inside Chicago’s landmark historic Palmer House Hilton hotel got decades of great stories and research crammed into it. It was expected from the man SABR named One of Baseball’s 50 Most Influential Off-Field Figures.