Bill Veeck’s Rules of Etiquette for Baseball Owners

Bill Veeck

Bill Veeck

When Bill Veeck was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1991 his widow, Mary-Frances Veeck, offered some interesting comments about how he conducted himself, offering twelve commandments of professional life. They were, in essence, Veeck’s rules of etiquette for baseball owners. There are very few owners who practice all of these, no doubt. How many times have we seen vocal blowhards among the major league baseball establishment. Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner were only two of the mosty public of these fellows. As the new MLB season is upon us, how do you think the lords of baseball will act in relation to these maxims this coming year?

  1. Take your work very seriously. Give your all. Go for broke.
  2. Never ever take yourself too seriously! He loved to paraphrase Shakespeare: “What fools we mortals be!”
  3. Find your alter ego.
  4. Surround yourself with similarly dedicated soul-mates of whom you can ask “why?” And “why not?” Naturally, they may ask the same of you! Never hire a coat-holder.
  5. In your hiring be color-blind, gender-blind, age-and-experience blind. You never worked for Bill Veeck; you worked with him. Everyone was in it together and you were allowed to make a mistake every once in a while.
  6. Attend every home game and never leave a game until the last “out.” It’s rude!
  7. Answer all of your mail. You may learn something.
  8. Listen and be available to your fans-customers. Again, you might learn something.
  9. Enjoy and respect media members—the stimulation, the challenge. The “them-against-us” mentality should exist only between the teams on the field.
  10. Create an aura in your city of operation, that you’d better be at the ballpark, at the game lest you miss something exciting and unexpected. No offense to radio and television, but at the ballpark you are a participant not just a spectator.
  11. If you don’t think a promotion is fun, don’t do it. Don’t ever put on something “for the masses.” Never insult your fans. It was Ed Linn who summed up Bill’s philosophy about “fun at the ole ballpark.” “Every Day a Holiday and Every Fan a King” and-Queen, naturally.
  12. Don’t be so concerned with structured “photo ops” to preserve for some future viewing, that you miss the essence of what is happening at the moment. Instead, let things happen. Cherish the moment, commit it to memory. After all, the popular expression, “are we having fun yet?” was not manufactured out of whole cloth.
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One Response to Bill Veeck’s Rules of Etiquette for Baseball Owners

  1. DFC says:

    It’s a real delight to see Bill Veeck’s legacy being enjoyed like this. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was just nine or ten, back in my hometown, a little blue-collar factory city in Massachusetts. Veeck was the guest at a local Elks lodge dinner, and my Dad, never much of an indulgent mentor, took me to see him. I’m not sure what Dad was thinking–it might have been him showing me a role model, and then again it might been an attempted cautionary tale because Veeck wasn’t an example to be followed capriciously. I remember a giant with a numbus of scruffy red-gray hair over a face eroded by hard lessons and hard drink. He ignored the rubber-chicken meal and smoked like a trash fire. He used the whole paper tablecloth in front of him to jot down notes for his talk, and then never glanced at it. Top all that off with a white Ahab-style peg-leg, and you can understand why this force of nature made an impact on a small-town kid. Whatever the lesson was supposed to be, thanks, Dad.

    I can report that Veeck’s qualities must be genetic, because his son Mike possesses the family savvy and bravado. I’m not complaining that baseball has become more science than art, but if it abandons that boat-rocking, risk-taking, bet-the-house joie de combat that is the essence of Veeck Management 101, we’ll all be losers.


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