The man on this week's cover is Bill Veeck, whose new book, The Hustler's Handbook, begins on page 87. Veeck has been called many things by many people, but one thing he has never been called is dull. Now 51 and retired from baseball—at least temporarily—Veeck remains a fierce individualist who enjoys leveling his guns at "the big boys on the street," whether it be the Yankees or the Supreme Court. "For a long time," says Bill, "I tried to sum up in a few words part of my thinking. Then one night Bill Mauldin did it for me when he said, 'Bill, this is the way we think: If it's big, punch it.' "
By his own admission, Veeck is a cynic, and his cynicism is the direct result of his monumental sentimentality. Indeed, he is often quite nostalgic. He laments the declining number of old saloons and grocery stores and the passing of old telephone exchanges like Pennypacker and Butterfield into digital nightmares.
"There is a psychological intimidation about numbers," says Veeck. "I grew up thinking they were for felons and soldiers, the symbol of man's acceptance of discipline, and subjugation of the individual to the mass. I guess I'm just an anachronism. I'm still trying to build carriages in the automobile age."
Bill Veeck has been in baseball most of his life. His father was once president of the Chicago Cubs, and it was as an office boy for the Cubs that Bill got his early training. In time he became an owner of the St. Louis Browns, the Cleveland Indians and, finally, the Chicago White Sox.
Since leaving baseball in 1961, Bill, his wife, Mary Frances, and their six children have made their home on Peach Blossom Creek in Easton, Md. Their house sits in the middle of 19 acres, which are filled with big patches of flowers and 59 different kinds of trees. Once 15 dogs roamed the landscape, but now there are only four.
On the surface it would seem that Bill leads a rather sedentary life, but in fact he is just as active as when he was in baseball. His schedule allows him little time to work in his garden, one of his favorite distractions. He makes eight to 10 speaking engagements each month, writes a weekly column that is syndicated in 43 papers and does book reviews for a number of newspapers. In addition, he is quite active in civil rights, and he is always entertaining a steady stream of friends who are "anxious to see how it is to live like a respectable bum."
Somehow, though, he managed to find the time to dictate roughly 350,000 words and, along with Ed Linn, came up with The Hustler's Handbook, which he describes as a "chronicle of the roughest 18 months baseball has been through in a long time."
"I hope the book does well," Veeck adds. "The first one, Veeck—as in Wreck, will put three of my kids through school. Now I have to worry about the next three."