“Stumbling Around the Bases: The American League’s Mismanagement in the Expansion Eras”
The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
Released April 1, 2022
The publishers website
“A Brand New Ballgame: Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck, Walter O’Malley and the Transformation of Baseball, 1945-1962”
G. Scott Thomas
The publishing info:
Released Nov. 11, 2021
The reviews in 90 feet or less
The Dodgers revive a dog-related promotion this Saturday that has less to do with relishing the history of its former Farmer John-produced foot-long frank than it does celebrating the curious fact some are still willing to go to any extreme to be in the presence of their own wound-up wiener dog.
“Bark in the Park” is what they called it at first. Now it’s “Pups at the Park,” because, really, the only barking in baseball should be between a manager and umpire, and that isn’t even tolerated as it once was.
In 2010, L.A. Times writer Chris Erskine attended the very first promotion and wrote in his lede: “That was some party in the right-field pavilion Saturday night — some 500 dogs in attendance, a minor league stunt in a major league venue. In order to enter the stadium, the dogs had to have proof of vaccinations, a requirement so successful that Dodger brass might one day extend it to the fans themselves.”
It is an odd event where waivers must be signed releasing the Dodgers of any legal rights and liabilities, and the team must also remind everyone: Please be sure quantity of dog tickets and human tickets are accurate at checkout. Also: This is a live sporting event and loud noises may occur.
Erskine noted that fans had to pay $25 for a seat in the then-all-you-can-eat right field pavilion, as well as fork out $25 for a ticket to accommodate their dog. The next year, tickets went up to $30 each. In 2018, it was $46 for humans and $40 for dogs. Now, its $78 each for this Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. It’ll be a more modest $63 a ticket when the event happens again on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 5, vs. San Francisco.
Former media hustler Roy Firestone was prompted to post on Facebook:
The Dodgers, like many teams, can and will get away with this ticketing arrangement. Increased prices work with any and all promotional event.
Last year during COVID recall, the Dodgers didn’t have one of these events, but eight other teams did. They weren’t the first to come up with the idea – at least five other teams were doing it in 2005, five years before the Dodgers’ first one. The Padres (at Petco Park) and Diamondbacks have expanded to have “pet-friendly sections” at their stadiums since 2016, converting a patio area with “premium boxes” in left field that go for $100 a game – four fans, two dogs.
Dog days seems to be an event that a team owner like Bill Veeck would have unleashed years ago. And who knows, maybe he thought of it first and never pulled it off.
A New York Times piece on the subject in 2005 notes: The Chicago White Sox, who have a long legacy of unusual promotions dating to the former owner and marketing maverick Bill Veeck, were the first major-league team to hold a dog day, in 1996. “It’s one of our most popular promotions, one of the few that fans call about immediately after tickets go on sale for the season,” said Katie Kirby, director of public relations for the team.
To get the real read on Veeck, whose ability to circumvent conventional wisdom in the name of baseball fun, there are more than 400 pages devoted to his life and times thanks to Paul Dickson’s 2012 book “Baseball’s Greatest Maverick.” We’d love to see the outtakes.
It is a far deeper dive beyond the classics Veeck wrote with Ed Linn, starting with “Veeck – As in Wreck: The Chaotic Career of Baseball’s Incorrigible Maverick,” which came out in 1962, and then the 1965 version of “The Hustler’s Handbook,” which attracted a cover story in Sports Illustrated. He said at the time “Handbook” is a “chronicle of the roughest 18 months baseball has been through in a long time. … I hope the book does well. The first one will put three of my kids through school. Now I have to worry about the next three.”
Veeck wasn’t just a bulldog owner, but one you imagine could have had more bite had he been surrounded by other breeds of creative canines working in the name of the National League (aka, the Senior Circuit) during the game’s transformative years. Instead, relegated to the American League, he must have felt as if he was herding cats trying to get anyone not associated with the New York Yankees to invest in the growth of what was cutely known as “The Junior Circuit” in the post-World War II era.
Veeck, navigating the AL as the majority owner of the Cleveland Indians (1946-’49), St. Louis Browns (1951-’53) and Chicago White Sox (1959-’61 and ’75-’80), made his mark with employing the league’s first African American player, signing a midget to a contract and having him draw a walk, and having a bunch of disco records burn on his home field. He was as American as the AL would allow.
But he loved to tell the story about how he wanted to buy the NL’s Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 – and how he was going to stock the roster with Negro League stars. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wasn’t going to have any of that, and found out the rest of the National League owners assumed ownership of the team even though Veeck agreed in principal to the deal from previous ownership. Dickson covered that in depth in his book about Veeck and the topic is still up for debate about its truthiness.
For those who love to reconstruct baseball history, wonder what would have happened if some things fell differently, and why franchises ended up here, there and everywhere except when logic came in play, here are two more viable entries to pour through and try to reconnect the dippin’ dots of days gone by.
Veeck, enjoyably, is all over it in both editions.
In the introduction to “Stumbling Around the Bases,” McCue pulls a quote from Veeck that explains how the league known as “The Junior Circuit” operated from his point of view: “Planning is wholly out of keeping with the American League tradition of confronting all emergencies, head on, with Panic and Patchwork.”
The marvelous quote is one McCue, a SABR member since 1982 and organizational president from 2009-11, found from an unpublished manuscript called “Good Grief, They’ve Done It Again!” included in the Bill Veeck Papers at the Chicago Historical Society, attributed to Veeck and Linn and likely written in 1967, in what would have been the third in a Veeck-Linn trilogy.Continue reading “Day 13 of 2022 baseball books: How the A.L. found L.A. through little help of its brethren”