I have believed that two of the greatest living biographers are David McCullough and Douglas Brinkley. I have blogged before about their best-selling works.Please add to their companionship the name of Paul Dickson, whose biography, Bill Veeck (New York: Walker Publishing, 2012), is as thorough and entertaining of this type of book that I have read.
One given is that it doesn’t take a lot to get great material when the subject matter is Bill Veeck. As a major league baseball owner of several teams, no one has ever had stranger techniques or wilder promotions. He also was one of the great “givers” that the game has ever known, particularly from the owner’s box.
This book details these techniques and promotions well. Who could ever forget sending a midget up to bat to ensure a sure base on balls? Or, how about disco-burning night, where more fans than could fit into the stadium showed up to contribute their albums to both a literal and figurative blow-up?
And, how humanitarian Veeck was. He sat with fans in the bleachers. He gave thousands of tickets away to kids who could not afford them. He wore a prosthetic most of his life, but it did not stop him from parading onto the field to play the national anthem as part of a spirit crew. And, he showed great courage by bringing players of color into the limelight, especially the great pitcher, Satchel Paige.
But this book is not just a recount of Veeck’s history. Dickson skillfully weaves sports, politics, economics, and other aspects of our culture into the story. It is a compelling tale, told by a skillful author, who has researched his focal person and subject well.
This is Paul Dickson’s seventh book. Not all are about baseball, and not all are biographies. But, this book clearly places him among the best currently writing.
I can’t present this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. It did not make a best-seller list, which is our requirement for selection. But, I hope someday to get to talk about it formally for some audience, somewhere.
Consider buying and reading it. It will be well worth your reading time.
The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings last night. Their coach, Sean Payton, wanted to start this season with his team fully prepared for the challenge of defending their Super Bowl crown. One of the steps he took was to bring in Derek Fisher to speak to his team. Fisher is a 5 times NBA Champ (only he and Kobe Bryant have played in all five of the Lakers’ most recent championships).
Last night, Andrea Kremer reported this, and reported that Fisher said this to the Saints:
“You are no longer the predator. You are the prey.”
It reminds me of the great business truth that I read most memorably from Gary Hamel, quoted in The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley:
To those few companies sitting on the innovation fence, business writer Gary Hamel has a dire prediction: “Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it. You’ve got one option now – to shoot first. You’ve got to out-innovate the innovators.”
Or, to put it a little more graphically, from another great athlete:
“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”