Bill Veeck, Executive
William Louis Veeck Jr. (February 9, 1914 – January 2, 1986), also known as “Sport Shirt Bill“, was a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a franchise owner and promoter in Major League Baseball. Veeck was at various times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. As owner and team president of the Indians in 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby, thus beginning the integration of the American League. Veeck was the last owner to purchase a baseball franchise without an independent fortune, and is responsible for many innovations and contributions to baseball.
Finding it hard to financially compete, Veeck retired after the 1980 Chicago White Sox season. He died of cancer six years later. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame five years later in 1991.
In 1943, at the age of 29, Veeck chose not to accept a deferment from military service. Instead, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and demanded to be sent to a war zone. After basic training, he was shipped to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where he still played a role trading players for his team by using war correspondents to get his thoughts and ideas back to Milwaukee.
Veeck served for nearly three years in the United States Marine Corps during World War II in an artillery unit. During this time a recoiling artillery piece crushed his leg, requiring amputation first of the foot, and shortly after of the leg above the knee. Over the course of his life he had 36 operations on the leg. He had a series of wooden legs and, as an inveterate smoker, cut holes in them to use as an ashtray.
The fact that Veeck was conducting baseball business from a war zone was newsworthy and contributed to his nascent reputation as a man who did things differently.