Move under way to get Bill Veeck's father into Hall of Fame
Mary Frances Veeck fondly remembers the occasions when her late husband, Bill, would reminisce about his father, William Veeck.

"I always loved hearing Bill talk about his father, and he would talk about him quite often," said Veeck, now 91 and living in a South Side retirement home. "The lessons Bill's father taught him were invaluable, and they stuck with him for the rest of his life. Bill was very proud of being his son."

Bill Veeck, of course, was one of the most important executives in Major League Baseball history, helping end racial segregation in the sport, putting the ivy on the Wrigley Field walls and pioneering such innovations as the "exploding scoreboard" at Comiskey Park and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.

For this storied career, Veeck was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1991, five years after his death at age 71. Now historians are ramping up a campaign to add Veeck's father to the hall because of his accomplishments as a Cubs executive, including his pioneering role in banning gambling, promoting Ladies Day, proposing interleague play and instituting sweeping reforms in how the major leagues are run.

The campaign for the senior Veeck will be launched Thursday in Chicago by Dr. David Fletcher, president and founder of the Chicago Baseball Museum, at a symposium on the Veecks at the Chicago History Museum.

Conference participants will be Fletcher, baseball historian Paul Dickson, Chicago historian Timuel Black, sports journalist Ron Rapoport, filmmaker and former Veeck Jr. colleague Tom Weinberg and others.

Veeck Sr., who built the last great Cubs dynasty of pennant-winning teams, died of leukemia in 1933 at age 56.

"Sadly, his career wasn't as long as it could have been, but what he did in a short time is phenomenal," said Fletcher, whose museum is in the organizational stages. "He basically saved baseball after the Black Sox scandal (in which White Sox players threw the 1919 World Series). He was able to reorganize basically a cottage industry into a major entertainment industry by having consolidated leadership through one commissioner."

"William Veeck was at the forefront of a new movement to make the baseball park a place where women and families would feel comfortable," added Dickson, whose biography of Bill Veeck, "Baseball's Greatest Maverick," was released this year. "If nothing else, William Veeck helped democratize baseball."

The Hall of Fame's new Pre-Integration Committee will meet in December in Nashville, Tenn., to come up with a list of induction candidates from 1871 to 1946. A vote on induction will take place next year.

"We will be out there actively campaigning" for Veeck Sr., Fletcher said.

It won't be easy, according to Roland Hemond, who worked as a general manager under Bill Veeck when he owned the White Sox from 1976 to 1980. Hemond, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee, which considers players from 1947 to 1972, said the voting process can be a political one.

Veeck Sr. "will have to have some champions on the committee," Hemond said.

But Hemond, who heard Bill Veeck talk about his "Daddy" many times when they worked together at Comiskey, said he believes Veeck Sr. belongs in Cooperstown.

"Just from hearing what Bill said about him, you got the impression that he was an extension of what his father started," Hemond said.

Indeed, Veeck Jr. gushed about his father, which is apparent in "Veeck as in Wreck," Bill's legendary autobiography written with sportswriter Ed Linn.

"Unlike me, my father was far too dignified a man to pull promotional stunts. … But he was a man of imagination ... and easily the greatest innovator of his time," wrote Veeck, who said his father first proposed a "round robin" of interleague games in 1922 at the halfway point of the season.

Major League Baseball didn't formally adopt interleague play until 1995.

Despite having only a third-grade education, William Veeck became established in Chicago as a journalist in 1902, working first with the Chicago Inter-Ocean and Chicago Chronicle, before becoming a popular sportswriter under the pseudonym "Bill Bailey" with the Chicago American.