I just finished reading Veeck as in Wreck. As others here have done, I'd recommend it.
I was born in the late 50's, too young to perceive or remember Veeck's first run with the White Sox. But I was a massive baseball follower and Sox fan during his second stint of ownership with the Sox. His nuttiness and proclivity for bringing in people past their prime left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth at the time.
This book shed a lot of light on my understanding of it all. Here are some of the things I learned that I did not know. (And apologies if I botch any facts.)
I always wondered how the Allyn's ended up with the Sox. Now I know- one of the Allyn's was one of Veeck's partners, and he bought the team when Veeck sold in the early 60's.He sold it to his brother in the 60's, then Veeck bought it from him again in the 70's.
I also wondered why the Sox struggled so much in the late 60's/70's. It had a lot to do with money.
I knew Seattle sued baseball about losing the Pilots, and I knew the Sox moving to Seattle to settle that was a possibility. But I didn't realize how close it was to happening.
I didn't know Charley Finley had been wanting to buy a MLB club for a long time before he finally got the A's, nor did I know that he and Veeck were peas in a pod (especially in their disdain for the eastern power brokers that run baseball).
I didn't realize how much owner politics drove what happened in baseball, nor how gutless some of the leaders were. I thought they were one big happy family (more or less).
I knew O'Malley was powerful, but I didn't know all of the story of how he moved to LA and how the early 60's expansion came to be.The Dodgers had always been my favorite NL team (not saying much), but seeing how ruthless O'Malley was tones that down a bit.
When Veeck bought the Sox in the 70's, I thought it was messed up that he brought in Paul Richards, Larry Doby and others from his past to run the club. But I understand that a little bit more now (still thought those guys weren't so good for the Sox though). I didn't get why Max Patkin was on a baseball field in the 70's, it was pure nostalgia for Veeck though. Props to him for knowing Roland Hemond was a baseball genius though.
I didn't know we traded Bucky Dent to help meet payroll. Wow. I knew the '77 gambit (Forster/Gossage/Zisk/Gamble/Soderholm) was about staying alive as a franchise, and it was fun too. I guess I never gave Veeck enough credit for trying to run a MLB team when he was at a disadvantage financially compared to other franchises.
It's not too much to say that Veeck saved the franchise in those days.
I remember talking with Veeck on the phone once, I think after the Herrmann trade to the Yankees. Man the guy knew his talent, and wasn't too good to talk to yokel fans calling him on the phone. I remember him talking up LaMarr Hoyt (who came over in the Dent trade), he knew he'd gotten a keeper there. He really was a guy who liked fans even if he was a little nutty.
Veeck's eccentricity always bothered me a bit (Patkin, the gags, getting people past their prime, etc.). But reading the book made me appreciate the whole guy and the context of it all. You can't pick the cards you are dealt in life, but you can determine how you play them. He did a good job considering all of that. He was not a zillionaire who ran a baseball club in between big real estate deals and riding his yachts around; he was a guy who grew up around baseball and did it all at some point in his career. He did it because he loved the game.
It's too bad his 2nd time around, the Sox could not have pulled off a pennant.