Recalling Marvin Miller, Bill Veeck: Two of most impressive people I’ve ever met
Ross Baumgarten broke into the big leagues for owner Bill Veeck as a pitcher for the White Sox. He also stopped pitching for the Sox in 1981, when he went on out strike for Marvin Miller.
Baumgarten recalls his encounters with two giants of baseball.
How well did you get to know Bill Veeck and Marvin Miller?
Baumgarten: They are two of the most impressive people I’ve ever met.
What do you recall about Marvin Miller?
Marvin Miller fought for us. just because he felt he was on the right side of the issue. The players had no freedom, and that he was going to fight for our freedom until hell or high water.
I’ve come to learn that Marvin Miller was a very liberal man, bordering on socialism as a tendency, which I am not. But just the fact that he was willing to fight for us and our freedoms, and to use arguments that were so rational and clear, not pie‑in‑the‑sky stuff, to explain his positions and why we should be in agreement with him. I just felt that it was really impressive.
I also called him in later years just to talk, and again, I was not Reggie Jackson. I was not Rod Carew. He would sit and talk with me.
What would you talk to him about?
Just baseball. This is way after I was done, way after he was done. I mean, he was pretty old, but he had his marbles for a long time. He was just great to talk to. So smart.
What do you recall about Veeck?
He was a genuine human being. I’ll give you my best Bill Veeck story. I’ll give you two Bill Veeck stories. One is I get called up in August of ’78 to make four starts. Now, I’m kind of a big shot at that point. I was 9‑1 in Appleton A‑Ball, I was 2‑2 in Double‑A, I was 5‑4 in Triple‑A, and I’m 2‑2 in the Big Leagues, and September comes, and they shut me down. Now, I was close to 200 innings, but in those days no one gave a damn about that. But they wanted Trout to pitch and they wanted some of the other guys to pitch. So again, being 23, I didn’t handle it as well as I should have, and I got ticked.
I guess Hemond and Veeck found out about it, and summoned me to the Bards’ Room (a saloon in Comiskey Park where Veeck held court). Instead of getting mad at me and telling me what’s a little (jerk) for getting mad, he sat me down. He said, ‘Listen, this is our thinking: You’ve pitched a lot. We know what you can do. We want to see what some of the other kids can do. Just believe in what we have planned.’
To me that’s an amazing thing to do, because he didn’t get off on his power just being the owner of the team. He could have easily sent me to Siberia and said, you’ll never pitch for us again. But he didn’t. He sat me down and explained to me.
The second Bill Veeck story is I’m now out of the game, and I’m a young broker struggling to find new clients. That infers that I need to market myself a little. And I’m a baseball player. I wasn’t a marketer.
So I call up Bill Veeck, and I say, ‘Would you be kind enough to sit down with me and talk about how I might be able to grow my business, i.e., market it.’ He said, absolutely. Meet me at Miller’s Pub at noon. He sat there, I’m not kidding you, for five hours and talked to me until we were just blue in the face about different ways I could start my business and ideas on how to market myself. Who ever would have done that? I was out of the game. He didn’t owe me anything. He was out of the game, too. That meant so much to me.