1976 Chicago's Greats - Bill Veeck
On this day in 1986, Bill Veeck died from cancer, after a lengthy smoking habit. While he is most associated by his contributions with the White Sox, most people have no idea how influential he was all over the game.
When Bill was a child, his father became president of the Chicago Cubs. As a young lad, Bill came up with the idea of growing ivy in the Wrigley Field outfield. This brainstorm helped to define Wrigley Field and is one of the first things that pops into people's heads when they think of the Cubs home field.
While with the Cleveland Indians, Veeck signed Larry Doby to a contract, effectively making Doby the first black player in the American League. He also signed Satchel Paige, making him the oldest rookie in MLB history.
Working with the St. Louis Browns, Veeck hired Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit and allowed the fans to manage a game, which the Browns won, snapping a four game losing streak.
In 1959, Veeck was head of a group that took over the White Sox. He installed the now famous exploding scoreboard and electric blowers to clear home plate of dirt. Bill was forced to sell his shares of the team in 1961, due to poor health, but returned in 1975.
This time, Veeck pulled memorable stunts like having the team wear shorts during three different games and the ill-fated Disco Demolition. He also created the template for the rent-a-player mentality that would become popular with some owners, when he signed star players to one year contracts, in 1977. Veeck would be responsible for reinstating Minnie Minoso two separate times. One of the most enduring stunts that Veeck pulled out of his hat was convincing announcer Harry Caray to sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" for the fans during the seventh inning stretch. A reluctant Caray agreed and it became a staple of Harry's schtick, which he moved to the Cubs booth a few years later.