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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
A man with a salt-and-pepper goatee walks alone through an airport. Pick an airport. Any airport. He has walked alone through them all. He's thinking about his five minor league baseball teams. He's thinking about putting on the world's largest pillow fight on the field after a Hudson Valley Renegades game; hatching a reality show to find the next Natural of either sex for the St. Paul Saints; spraying green paint over the bald spots on the Charleston RiverDogs' field; holding BALCO Night at a Sioux Falls Canaries game and handing a small plastic cup of Mello Yello to every fan at the gate; and, yes, sad to say, staging a Tommy James and the Shondells concert at a Fort Myers Miracle game ... when suddenly his eyes close. To see what it feels like to be his daughter. Again. ¶ They close partway--no, that's cheating--then tighter until it's all gone: the harried commuters and zigzagging children and jostling luggage. He sends his left foot, slowly, into the blackness ... then ... his right foot. There it goes, the bottom dropping out of the pit of his gut. Now the left foot again ... three steps ... four ... five.... ¶ His eyelids open. He chickens out. Darkness 1, Veecks 0. But plenty of games remain on the schedule, so call now for group packages and bobblehead giveaway dates.
This is a 100-year story, covering four generations of one baseball family, but don't panic. There are only four characters to follow, and they're all named Veeck, and only two of them, the two still breathing, truly concern us. We'll even provide a genealogy, the way Russian novelists do--
--and deliver you midgets and Martians and mimes being pelted with hot dogs, which Tolstoy never did.
Mike's in a taxi. Pick a taxi. Any taxi. He's ridden in them all. He's thinking about the five minor league teams he consults and writes ads for, besides the five he partly owns. A nice little wad fattens his pocket. It's a Vegas taxi. He never used to give the slots the time of day, but that was before he discovered their secret: They make everything go away. They make you forget.
The first half of his life was hand-to-hand combat with his father's shadow. Booze, drugs, jail, divorce, a heart attack--he tried all the classic routes to escape or annihilate it ... and himself. But that was nothing compared with the second half: mortal combat with his daughter's shadow, the literal one descending over her eyes. Everything's a weapon now. Every trick, hustle, gag and audacity--the entire Veeck kit and caboodle--he's pulling out of the attic, hoisting out of the gene pool, taking to the plate. He's 54 and swinging from his heels at something he can't even see.
He calls the RiverDogs' office from the cab.