Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bill Veeck, February 23, 1977

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:20 - Veeck's first time meeting Happy Chandler

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Partial Transcript: When was the first time that you met, uh, Commissioner Chandler?

Segment Synopsis: Bill Veeck describes the first time that he met Happy Chandler. He discusses Chandler's election as baseball commissioner and explains how he made a request that the minor leagues have the opportunity to vote. This request was ignored.

Keywords: California; Commissioner elections; Hospitals; Minor league votes; Pleas; Reactions

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Governors--Kentucky; Major League Baseball (Organization); Minor league baseball.

00:03:28 - Comparisons between Chandler and Judge Landis

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Partial Transcript: Um, how would you compare Chandler with his predecessor, Judge Landis, whom you also knew?

Segment Synopsis: Veeck describes how Chandler was very different from his predecessor, Landis. He states that Chandler inspired fear among the team owners because he cast himself as a friend of the athletes and supported player pension programs.

Keywords: "Friend of the athlete"; "Friend of the people"; Management styles; Pension programs; Pensions; Sternness

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Baseball team owners; Baseball--Management; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Labor disputes; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944; Major League Baseball (Organization); Major League Baseball (Organization)--History; Pensions--Law and legislation; Poverty

00:09:17 - Veeck's purchase of the Cleveland Indians / disagreement over radio broadcasting rights during the playoffs

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Partial Transcript: Um, it was, you know, sort of an exciting period when you took over the Indians.

Segment Synopsis: Veeck discusses his taking over the Cleveland Indians, the playoffs, and his disagreement with Chandler over radio broadcasting rights during the playoffs. Veeck states that he felt that Chandler supported CBS over the interests of baseball.

Keywords: CBS; Disagreements; Playoff game broadcasting rights; Playoffs

Subjects: Baseball team owners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Radio broadcasting of sports; Radio--History.

00:17:53 - Problems of radio sponsorship during the playoff broadcasts

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Partial Transcript: Did you have your two, um, announcers-- they were Grady and Dudley...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck talks about his difficulty in securing an agreement over radio sponsorship during the playoffs.

Keywords: Broadcasting rights; Corporate sponsorship; Gillette; Local radio stations; Settlement; Sponsorship; WERE Cleveland

Subjects: Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Gillette Safety Razor Company; Radio; Radio advertising.; Radio broadcasting of sports; Radio stations.; Radio--History.

00:18:48 - Muddy Ruel as an assistant to Commissioner Chandler

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Partial Transcript: Muddy Ruel was another friend of yours.

Segment Synopsis: Muddy Ruel's time in Commissioner Chandler's office has been described as the least controversial time of Chandler's career as Commissioner. Veeck explains Ruel's influence and why this short time had much less controversy.

Keywords: Baseball commissioner's office; Knowledge of baseball; Management tactics; Muddy Ruel; Politics

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Baseball--Management; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Ruel, Herold Dominic, 1896-1963.

00:23:10 - Chandler, Jackie Robinson, and the integration of Major League Baseball

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Partial Transcript: Landis, for instance, uh, opposed blacks in baseball. Uh, and, and, and, so his style of operation...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck talks about Happy Chandler and the integration of Major League Baseball. He explains that Chandler did not have much to do with Jackie Robinson's acceptance into the Brooklyn Dodgers. He states that Chandler did not stand in the way, but he did not take an active role either.

Keywords: Judge Landis

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944; Major League Baseball (Organization)--History; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972; Segregation

00:27:47 - Larry Doby, the first black baseball player of the American League

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Partial Transcript: What sort of a, a, a ball player was Larry Doby? I mean he was the first black...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck shares his memories of Larry Doby and the experiences that the latter as the first black baseball player in the American League. Veeck states that he thinks that Doby was a good player, but could have been better if he had entered Major League Baseball in more racially tolerant times.

Keywords: Anger; New Jersey; Racism; Treatment of African-Americans

Subjects: African American baseball players; African Americans--History; African Americans--Race identity.; American League (Major League Baseball); Baseball; Doby, Larry; Racism

00:34:02 - Racism among baseball team owners

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Partial Transcript: Why, why were you and your fellow owners afraid of blacks in baseball? Is it...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck talks about racism in baseball, especially among team owners. He also mentions the owners' fear that integration would have a negative impact on profits.

Keywords: Attitude towards race; Baseball and segregation; George Washington; Profits; Racial fears; Team owners

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Baseball; Baseball team owners; Baseball--United States--Social aspects; Economics; Racism; Slavery

00:39:50 - Veeck's initial hiring of black baseball players

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Partial Transcript: I must admit that I, I, I started getting ready a year before, before I hired black people.

Segment Synopsis: Veeck tells how he prepared for his hiring of black players. He expresses that there was fear among the team owners that there would be race-related violence among spectators.

Keywords: Baseball fans; Black spectators; Employment practices; Fans; Fear; Violence; Workforce integration

Subjects: African Americans.; Baseball; Baseball team owners; Discrimination in employment; Integration; Public relations and politics; Racism

00:41:29 - The integration of major league baseball / the end of the negro leagues

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Partial Transcript: And the other reason they used, of course, was that it would cause the demise of the negro leagues, which it did, but...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck discusses the integration of major league baseball and the effects it had on the negro leagues. He states that the good players were quickly signed for the Major Leagues, but also hints that the negro leagues were already in decline.

Keywords: integration of baseball

Subjects: Baseball; Integration.; Negro leagues; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972

00:43:58 - Veeck and Chandler's conflicting stances on gambling

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Partial Transcript: Commissioner Chandler had, uh, sort of a thing about gambling, and he talked to you about gambling...

Segment Synopsis: Bill Veeck discusses Happy Chandler's stance against gambling and how it conflicted with his own. He states that he took a laid-back approach to gambling, as long as gamblers kept a low profile.

Keywords: Gambling policies; Illegal gambling; Opinions

Subjects: Baseball; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Cleveland (Ohio); Gambling; Major League Baseball (Organization)--History; Veeck, Bill

00:52:53 - The signings of Artie Wilson and Luis Marquez

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Partial Transcript: Oh, well, that was a weird decision. I signed Artie Wilson in, in, uh, Puerto Rico.

Segment Synopsis: Veeck describes a situation in which two teams (the Yankees and the Indians) wanted to hire a player. Veeck wanted Artie Wilson for his team, and the Yankees wanted Luis Marquez, but they each ended up with the other player.

Keywords: Baseball contracts; Hiring practices; Puerto Rico; Recruiting; Recruitment; Signing contracts

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball; Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Baseball--Management; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); New York Yankees (Baseball Team)

00:58:14 - Relationship with Chandler

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Partial Transcript: We, you know, we wrestled back and forth, but, I'm, uh, you know... You sometimes make mountains out of...

Segment Synopsis: Veeck talks about his relationship with Chandler, and its high and low points. He states that they primarily clashed on the issue of gambling, but also hints that there were no hard feelings between them.

Keywords: "No hard feelings"; Memories; Relationships; Tensions

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Baseball team owners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Gambling

01:03:07 - Leslie O'Connor

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, but Leslie came from the Commissioner's office. You see, he had been with Landis.

Segment Synopsis: Marshall brings up Leslie O'Connor and how the American League team owners did not support O'Connor's push to sign a baseball player from a parochial school. The interview ends suddenly as the tape cuts out.

Keywords: Conflict; General managers; Judge Landis; Leslie O'Connor

Subjects: American League (Major League Baseball); Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Baseball managers; Baseball team owners; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944