Bill Veeck turned 100 on Sunday, and in the Chicago Tribune, John Owens wonders if either Chicago team honors him as much as they could.
Still, while Veeck's spirit will hover over Chicago baseball for years to come, some observers say his memory is somewhat slighted in the city today. True, a portion of Shields Avenue has been renamed Bill Veeck Drive near U.S. Cellular Field. And the press box at the Cell is also named after Veeck.
But after that …
"He's invisible," wrote David Fletcher, founder of the Chicago Baseball Museum, in an email to the Tribune. "The Sox press box is named after Bill with a plaque near its entrance honoring him, but the Sox fans don't see this. The Cubs have done nothing to commemorate their former Hall of Fame employee (Veeck was inducted posthumously in 1991), who is responsible for their most iconic features at Wrigley Field: the landmark-status scoreboard and ivy on the walls."
"It is very sad that such a historical figure is virtually ignored in the city where he was born and died," Fletcher wrote.
That last part strikes me as an overstatement, but there is some incongruity between the volume of Veeck's life, and the subtlety of the nods to him around U.S. Cellular Field.
I can understand why the Sox might want to avoid overextending themselves with Veeck tributes, because it's taken a while for Jerry Reinsdorf to separate himself from merely being Everything Veeck Wasn't. He bears responsibility for some of it -- he seemed to make one unpopular decision after another from 1994 to 1999. But a number of other maligned calls were more forced by circumstances. He inherited a crumbling stadium and a pair of broadcasters whose style wouldn't last for long in modern baseball, and changes were inevitable in both cases.
Whereas Veeck was everybody's friend, Reinsdorf struggled to relate or relay information to the public, so he was easy to lash out against. Veeck's tenures had equally notable shortcomings, but it was harder to hold it against him. His immense charm and popularity is why he's a Hall of Famer.
Thanks to the 2005 World Series, a string of budgets that allowed Kenny Williams to dream, and long-time employees who sing his praises, Reinsdorf has outdistanced Veeck's shadow and all the 20th-century turbulence to forge a standalone legacy. The Sox churned through a bunch of owners, Veeck included, but Reinsdorf is the only one since Charles Comiskey to actually reinforce the concept of a baseball franchise.
They probably couldn't have been compared in the first place, but there's really no point in it now. Both made indelible marks on the timeline of the White Sox in their disparate styles, and they can be appreciated, assessed and criticized on their own merits.
The Sox's current ownership can be secure enough to draw attention to Veeck if they so choose, although it's difficult to say how. The concourse is already close to resembling the statue park in Goldeneye, so unless they wanted to copy Milwaukee's idea for Bob Uecker, bronze might be miscast.
Besides, between the outdoor shower and the exploding scoreboard, the park already features two inherent Veeck tributes. Perhaps the Sox could spell it out a bit more (the stadium could use more interactive historical displays), but as long as one of his creations plays a prominent role in the park's backdrop, I'd think the Sox are most of the way there already.
Or maybe the Sox can dust off one of his old promotions for his 100th birthday. I'd suggest the grandstand manager cards, but that'd put me out of business.
Side note: While browsing through the Veeck clips on mediaburn.org, I came across this one with Edward R. Murrow.