"A hustler," says Bill Veeck, "is a man who will talk you into giving him a free ride and then make it seem as if he is doing you a great favor. I am a hustler—and I know one when I see one." With this issue, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED introduces the first of five chapters of Mr. Veeck's explosive new book about baseball, his sequel to the entertaining and highly controversial "Veeck—as in Wreck." "The Hustler's Handbook," which will be published by G. P. Putnam's Sons this summer, is certain to delight its readers as much as it will anger many of baseball's most prominent names. You will not always agree with Mr. Veeck—he does not expect you to—but we think you will agree that what he has to say is worth reading.
Low Comedy and High Intrigue
The World Series, baseball's version of the Coronation, was followed this past season by a two-part drama of low comedy and high intrigue in which pennant-winning managers went bouncing around the landscape with an abandon not seen since the boom days of Frank Lane. The analyzers and second-guessers haven't had so much fun since the Bay of Pigs.
Needless to say, situations such as this do not come about unless there has been some high-powered brainwork going on in the higher executive echelons. What happened was that the duly commissioned thinkers in both St. Louis and New York quit cold on their teams a couple of months before the season came to an end. Gussie Busch and his special consultant, Branch Rickey, had forsaken all hope for the Cardinals, and Ralph Houk of the Yankees had written off the season in New York. Fall guys were badly needed and, in baseball, the manager has been historically assigned the duty of exposing the jugular before he exited, bleeding. Otherwise the operator might have to blame himself, and that might shake his confidence in his own infallibility.
The apparent hero of the drama was Johnny Keane, manager of the Cardinals last year and of the Yankees this year. Keane entered the month of September holding an empty hand and walked out in mid-October holding everything any mortal man could reasonably wish for, including the universal esteem of his countrymen.
The darker side of this morality play was very brilliantly represented, of course, by Gussie Busch, who rides lead horse for Anheuser-Busch, by our friend Mr. Rickey, the man who taught Machiavelli the strike zone, and by Houk, the iron major of the Yankees.
Gussie is an old friend, and I like him. But one thing you've got to say about Gussie—he's got that certain indefinable insensitivity. Item: I decided I had better take my Browns out of town in 1953, after Anheuser-Busch bought the Cardinals, because Gussie was smarter, handsomer and he had better posture. He was also richer, wealthier and he had more money. The American League in its assembled wisdom had other plans for me, though, having little to do with making me as rich or as handsome as Gussie—or even with improving my posture. In my final year in St. Louis—known to lovers of freedom everywhere as the Year of the Bastille—I devised a grand design. Put simply, my grand design was to stay alive. As part of this devilishly clever plot, I sold Sportsman's Park to Anheuser Busch for $1,100,000 and all the repairs they could find.
One of the minor inconveniences of this transaction was that my wife, my son and I were living in an apartment we had built right into the park, and we had to get out. Gussie, being a nice man, decided to help us by offering to buy a few of our furnishings. He came to the door with the entourage of yes-men and sycophants that surrounds him wherever he goes, clearing away all air pockets of resistance and breathing up any loose smog lingering in the atmosphere. Well, I really shouldn't say they're all sycophants; I haven't met them all.
Gussie was sensitive enough to the delicacy of the situation to instruct his entourage to wait out by the entrance while he marched through the apartment, buying up everything in sight. I stood by, somewhat startled, shuffling my feet and clearing my throat in my usual dynamic and forceful way. I knew that he was only trying to be helpful and that I should have been suitably grateful but—broke though I was—I hadn't really intended to auction off my entire home. I mean, my posture didn't improve at all during the subsequent half hour.
I mention this only to make the point that it was this same insensitivity that turned the Keane affair into a complete debacle for him.