Tag Archives: Baseball

Cookies in the Fields

Professional Baseball has had some highly creative owners in its history.  Some were showmen trying to improve fan participation and attendance.  Some wanted to improve the game.  Some left us with features that lived well beyond themselves, and have become integrated into American culture.

Bill Veeck

The first such owner who comes to my mind is Bill Veeck, Jr (1914-1986), owner of the Cleveland Indians (now: Guardians), St Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox.

New scoreboard at Wrigley goes operational

Veeck Jr had some ideas to help dwindling attendance in the Depression 1930s.  As a 13-year-old lad working for his dad (Bill Sr was an executive with the Chicago Cubs and eventually club president) young Bill dreamed up the concept of the outfield walls covered in ivy.  Ten years later, as a team executive (his dad passed away in 1933) he had the now famous ivy on Wrigley Field’s outfield walls planted.

Veeck had the also now famous Wrigley scoreboard installed in center field. Modified several times over the decades, it still carries that feeling of yester-year.  It’s been recognizable by every MLB fan for many decades. [It’s one of only two such hand operated scoreboards in baseball; the other is Fenway in Boston.]

In the ‘30s Veeck was the first to suggest inter-league competition.  He surely had an eye toward a Chicago northside-southside rivalry (Cubs, Sox).  That took decades to be accepted.

Ivy going in at Wrigley, 1937

Veeck Jr. served in the Marines in WW2 for 3 years, suffering an injury in an artillery accident that ended his military duty … and cost him his right leg.

Veeck Jr. still had baseball in his bones.  Now a recovered veteran, he took on heavy loans to become the controlling owner of the Cleveland “Indians” in 1946, aged only 32.  Here he’s remembered for signing Larry Doby, the first African-American in the American League. [1]

He also signed pitcher Satchel Paige. He was 42 years old!

Eddie Gaedel, shortest person to ever appear in a Major League Baseball game makes his only appearance.

After a sensational Hall of Fame career in the Negro Leagues, Paige had finally moved to the Majors; until recently completely “mayonnaise”. He’s still the oldest rookie in MLB history.   On the roster for fewer than two months of that rookie ‘48 season (the last two months, in the pennant stretch), Paige was starting pitcher 7 times, recording six wins against one loss, with a stellar 2.48 ERA, while also tossing two shutouts. And an opposition batting average of only .228. The Indians went on to win the World Series. [More on Paige later] Oh, by the way, the Indians set an attendance record that year, over 2.8 million.

Veeck sold the Indians and bought the Saint Louis Browns in 1951.  With low attendance and poor teams Veeck tried to work his promotional magic.  Most famously he signed (for one game) the 3 foot – 7 inch tall (or short) Eddie Gaedel to take one single At Bat.  Wearing the number 1/8 he walked on four pitches. [He bowed to the crowd as he waltzed to first base; he was immediately removed for a pinch runner]

Veeck also had a “Grandstand Managers Night” — Fans were polled to make decisions in critical game situations.  The promos all failed to achieve significant attendance increases.  In 1954, Veeck was forced to sell the team to a group of investors, who moved the team to Baltimore (renaming the team the Orioles).

A few years later Veeck bought the Chicago White Sox.  Here he originated shooting off fireworks after games. Under Veeck the Sox were the first team to put players’ names on their jerseys.  More stuff too: “exploding” score boards with fireworks after home runs, Disco Demolition Night (tix were only 98 cents; riots ensued, leading to a forfeit).

His son, Mike, didn’t fall far from the family tree.  Among other things, while running the Sox, he had a “Tonya Harding Bat Night.”  No kidding. They gave away “Tonya Harding Bats!”  She even appeared as part of the promo and actually signed baseball bats.  As owner of a Florida class A team, he scheduled “Vasectomy Night” … on Father’s Day.  Thankfully, the “promo” was cancelled.

Bill Veeck Jr is in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Charlie O. Finley

Better known, to me and my generation I suppose, is Charlie O. Finley.  He bought the Kansas City Athletics in 1960 (formerly Philadelphia A’s).  He ditched the traditional dingy grey and white uniforms for bright gold and green hues.  Considered garish at the time, many teams today sport bright, colorful uniforms. Although not every game.

Charlie’s favorite mascot: Charlie-O, the mule [photo credit SportsBroadcastJournal.com]

He also thought the team needed a mascot.  A mule.  Yep, a mule for a mascot. A real live mule. Maybe because they’re known for being stubborn <?>. He named it “Charlie-O” (after himself) and dressed it in the team colors. For a while, Finley had relief pitchers ride in on Charlie from the bullpen when they entered the game.  Fans loved it.  Lawyers and insurers not so much.  The mule remained, but riding it did not last long.

Mr Finley rides his mascot

The A’s had a horrendous season in 1965.  In that season Finley put a pitch clock on the scoreboard. He hoped it would make pitchers and catchers aware of how the time between pitches extended a game’s duration.  Didn’t work well then, but now in the 2020s it’s part of every game – as a rule, not a suggestion.

Two of his most memorable stunts came near the end of that miserable ’65 season. First, he had his shortstop, Bert Campaneris, play all 9 positions in a single game – one for each inning.

Soon after, Finley signed the aforesaid Satchel Paige, now 59 years old!  Paige, who would be voted into the MLB Hall of Fame just 6 years later, had not pitched professionally in 12 years.  And even that was at a very, very advanced age for a Major Leaguer.

On September 25, in his sole appearance that year, Paige strode proudly to the mound as the starting pitcher against the Boston Red Sox at the A’s KC stadium: Municipal Stadium. [2] Paige was magnificent, going three scoreless innings, allowing only a single hit.

In ’65 the Red Sox were also struggling, but it was no cakewalk for Paige: The Sox had Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski and slugger Tony Conigliaro. Only 9,300 attended the game.  [Yaz got the only hit, a double.]

In KC, Finley continually struggled with low attendance and poor performance.  He moved the team to Oakland in 1968, where they’ve been ever since. Well, for now, at least.

When the team moved, Finley kept the 1,200 lb mule; Charlie-O the mule followed the team to Oakland. [When Finley sold the A’s in 1981, the mule was eliminated as mascot.  The A’s reverted to their traditional decades-old mascot: an elephant.  But only on the logo.]

In Oakland the team achieved a three-peat, 1972-4, three consecutive World Series wins. Finley kept going with innovation.

More from Charles O. Finley:

Fans couldn’t see the baseball?  He proposed orange baseballs; even getting authorization to try them in spring training games.  The idea didn’t go far and never made it into a regular season game.

Game too slow?  Too boring? He proposed the count going only to 3-balls and 2-strikes.  The late ‘60s games had been dominated by pitchers and seemed boring to many fans.  He thought the 3-ball walk would increase scoring.  And to a quicker game. Tried in a spring training game, the approach led to a game with 19 walks.  Hardly entertaining.

Boring Schedule? Finley proposed interleague play in the early ‘70s (as Veeck had done decades before); this finally came to fruition in 1997, only a year after he died.  It’s been part of MLB ever since.

Rollie Fingers and his famous handle bar mustache

During the A’s great success of the 1970s slugger Reggie Jackson refused to shave his mustache.  Wishing to not appear as caving in to his star, Finley encouraged all the players to grow facial hair; at least one chose exotic facial hair, Rollie Fingers.  Most of the team joined in with their own styles.  The ‘60s had changed a lot of things.  People were eager to express themselves, and Finley allowed his players that freedom. [3]

He instigated Hot Pants Day and Mustache Day at the stadium.

He was also instrumental in getting the Designated Hitter into professional baseball.  I’m not a supporter, but this idea won over the American League — and the non-position “position” DH-role has been part of American League baseball since 1973.  Since Covid, it’s also in the National League (ugg).

It’s 1973.  Oakland resident Stanley Burrell was 11 years old and a baseball fanatic.  He was particularly fanatic about the Athletics (A’s) [that’s what “fan” means, it’s short for “fanatic.”]  He’d hang out in front of the stadium before games, dancing and even doing James Brown Splits getting the fans revved up as they came through the parking lot.  He had been emulating Brown and other performers for quite a few years.  His other hobbies included writing poetry and lyrics and music that he could submit for product promotional jingles.

One day Finley saw young Stanley dancing. He was quite amused.  So, he hired Stanley, as a lark, for the team’s executive vice-president position.   As exec-VP, he traveled with the team on road trips, doubling as the team’s bat boy.

After college Burrell tried to follow his dreams of professional baseball and communications.  He flamed out at both.  The US Navy offered stability, discipline and a salary.  He needed all three.

Long story short, after his 3-year military career, Stanley went back to his original passions: singing, lyric writing and dancing.  As he performed successfully more and more often, first locally then branching out, he took the nickname “MC” – for Master of Ceremonies.  Soon after he also took the name Hammer:  MC Hammer.


The last Finley innovation we’ll address is Ball Girls.  During a baseball game many balls are grounded foul, just outside the 1st and 3rd base lines.  This might occur a dozen or two times each game. The balls eventually hit the fan/field wall and roll or bounce along the wall, toward the outfield.  For many decades teams have placed a “retriever”, usually a teen boy, out along the line to pick up or catch these foul balls before they ricochet into the outfield.

Finley said he wanted more female participation in the game; but he was surely looking for more male interest too.  In 1971 he hired two striking local 15-year-old blonde girls as the first Ball Girls —   Debra Jane “Debbi” Sivyer and Marry Barry.

Debbi Sivyer on delivering for a cookie and milk break

They were fetching to behold, especially for males’ eyes, attired in short and rather tight white shorts (Hot Pants), tops of white, gold or green, and usually long stockings, often of A’s gold.  They were a huge hit.

Creative Debbi Sivyer began a cookie break for the umpires. She served them her homemade cookies with milk.  Sometimes coffee or water, too. Young Ms. Sivyer was passionate about her baking hobby; she’d been working on her cookie recipes for years.  She used the five dollar per hour ball girl wages to purchase baking supplies.

The ball girl thing died out pretty rapidly, a couple of years – the players’ wives started complaining. First Finley adapted by having the young ladies wear less skimpy clothes and white slacks.  Not enough. To keep “matrimonial stability” Finley phased them out.

No worries for Debbi Sivyer.  She was soon Homecoming Queen and graduated at 17.  While attending Foothills College, in the south Bay area, she met a successful businessman who had founded his own successful investment company, Randall Keith Fields.  They were soon married, he was 29, she 19.  She took his surname, Fields.  She became Mrs. Fields.

Her cookies were good.  Great. Everyone loved them. The possibility of a profitable business began to appear.  Starting slowly, by beating the pavement, alone, and word-of-mouth, she gritted out a profitable business.  In a few years Mrs. Field’s cookie business began growing and growing.  She ran and eventually expanded the business to many hundreds of franchises and about a dozen countries.

Despite Randy’s business acumen, he poo-poo’d the idea for the first several years.  He did get “on-board” the cookie team as its success began blooming, becoming  company chairman and bringing the Fields Cookie company into the computer age by integrating software and databases for planning and tracking building needs, inventory, ingredients and product delivery.  This was pretty important as the company was expanding rapidly.

Debi and Randy had five daughters before they split in ’97.  Debi was the visionary and creative spirit of the team. She sold the company in the early ‘90s for $100 million.  Not bad at all.  She remains their spokesperson.

Debi “Mrs Fields” herself

She’d had a dream and a plan all along.  And she made it work.

Debbi married Michael Rose a few years later after the divorce. He was the former CEO of Holiday Corporation, and later Harrah’s after it merged with Holiday – mostly managing hospitality and casino operations.  They remained wed until his recent death, in 2017.

Ball girls Marry Barry and Debbi Sivyer Fields remain friends today.  Debbi now resides in Nashville, TN; Marry in Pleasant Hills, CA.  They’ve been featured at A’s games on throwback days, even throwing out the ceremonial “first pitch.”

Thanks for reading.

Joe Girard, 2024 ©

Thank you for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for newly published material by clicking here . Or emailing joe@girardmeister.com


Many of these characters have quite the collection of life stories.  Paige, Gaedel, Conigliaro, Yaz, Doby.  Even the ones mentioned at length here have much more.  But you get the idea.

[1] Indian Team Manager and Player Lou Boudreau took Doby around to meet his new teammates.  They were all eager to meet him and put their hands out for a shake.  Three players did not.  Veeck removed all three from the roster as soon as he could.

[2] In wonderful irony, or perhaps coincidence, the new Kansas City Municipal Stadium was built on the very site where the Negro League team Kansas City Monarchs had played – the team Paige played for when he made many of his significant successes in the Negro Leagues.  It’s about a half-mile walk from the Negro Leagues Museum, a must see for any fan. Next door is the American Jazz museum, and of course, there is great KC-style BBQ all around.

[3] There are other versions of this facial hair story.  I picked the one that seemed most likely and entertaining to me.  “I refuse to shave” is so Reggie Jackson.

Click: By Any Other Name

Click <By Any Other Name>


I sensed from a young age that there might be a family genetic propensity to “weak knees.” From his mid-30s my father’s knees would just “go out” on him.  A knee would buckle, he’d fall, and his knee would swell and lock-up for days or weeks. I recall once his sister, my Auntie Ruth, was visiting, and he was showing off his vegetable garden. Boom, down he went.  She had to help him into the house.

That’s not to say he was not athletic.  He was. He’d developed quite a few athletic skills, and one very special skill, much to my benefit.  It wasn’t until years later, when I was well into fatherhood, that I appreciated and realized how skilled he was.  Namely: consistently hitting a baseball with self-toss to high pop-ups a distance of 40 to 60 feet (to fit within our small lot) is very difficult.  Thanks to his skill and perseverance with me, I became a very serviceable outfielder for decades.

He always took an active role, either coaching or assistant coaching, in all his kids’ sports teams.  Especially baseball and softball.  I recall one episode clearly.  I was about 11 or 12 years old. Dad was hitting short fly balls (we’d graduated to distances of perhaps 120 feet) to kids on my baseball team and me.  There were three of us taking turns, and we were kind of being goofy, saying stuff like “One, two, three … Monkeys in the cocoanut tree.”  That goofiness ended suddenly.  A return throw to my dad was a bit wide … he lunged to reach it … and was down on the ground, unable to get up.  His knee had buckled and locked up.

He was not yet 40.  We three carried him to the car.  That was the end of practice. Somehow, he drove me home. He nursed that knee along for decades.  Finally, at age 75, he had it completely replaced.


Nicknames.  I think the best ones have little to nothing to do with one’s formal name (like “Joe” for “Joseph”) but reflect something of a person’s appearance or nature.  The only nickname I know of for my dad was “Duck”, a name he went by as a young adult; it was a dual reference to his name (via “Donald Duck”) and his dapper appearance when young; apparently he sported a DA (“duck’s ass”) for a while.

Nicknames usually fade away, either during a person’s life, or shortly after.

My dad’s mom was nicknamed “Dolly.”  She went by that name her whole life, except for when we called her “gramma.” Only a few cousins and I remember that.  She passed away in 1973, and, when we cousins are gone, I suspect all references to her will revert back to the formal name found on legal documents and in census reports: Cora.

I have a friend who had a college buddy decades ago whose name he can only recall as “Ferret Face.”

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Evidently he had the appearance of having  been delivered from his mother’s birth canal by having the wide-end of a funnel applied to his face and high powered vacuum hose attached to the other end.  He went by that name through college, and – in my friend’s recollections – still goes by that name today.

Some nicknames are eternal, since they’ve been attached to very memorable or historical figures.

 “Wild Bill” Hickok (James Butler Hickok) was so named for his huge nose – a bill, if you will. He died young, only 39, shot in the back while playing poker in, of all places, Deadwood, Dakota Territory.

“Billy the Kid” (William Bonney) was so named because he was young and looked younger.  Bonney, in trying to look more mature, had grown a straggly wispy beard that dangled from his chin, giving the appearance of a billy goat. Another story is that a bartender with a death wish insulted him when he asked for a drink by saying the boyish-appearing Bonney looked like a scared little billy goat. Young goats are called “kids.” The Kid died at 21 or 22 (many details of the Kid legend are ‘wispy’ too). The only extant photograph of him lends credence to the latter story.

This shows that a truly great nickname outlives the real name.  A wonderful example is a nickname that has survived and supplanted the real name for millenia: that of the Greek philosopher Plato.  His real name was Aristocles. Plato means “wide” and was probably a nickname given to him by his wresting coach (oh, those ancient Greeks and their wresting) as he evidently had a rather stout figure, even as a youth.

The Billy Goat

The Billy Goat

Nickname fates still to be determined are the nicknames of those recently departed. For example, the “Tappet Brothers.”  If you’ve listened to Public Radio on weekends, you’ve probably heard “Car Talk”, hosted by brothers Tom & Ray Magliozzi. Of course, they never went by those names.  To listeners, their on-air names were the names they signed off with:

  • “We’re Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers.”
  • Ray: “Whatever you do, don’t drive like my brother.”
  • Tom: “And don’t drive like MY brother.” (or some variation).

Their show was a learning experience about more than just cars.  It was about how to engage people, have fun and not take life so serious.  You’d never know they were both MIT-educated.  Their show was literally “a hoot.” Fun and educational.

So which was “Click” and which was “Clack”? I don’t think they ever divulged that fact.

Billy the Kid (William Bonney)

Billy the Kid (William Bonney)

To me, the oldest – that’s Tom – comes first.  He’s Click.

Tom, the elder Magliozzi, passed away last month, age 77, from complications of Alzheimers.

Sounds like a horrible way to go … at least for his family, and that includes poor Ray (Clack). Tom lived a full life, made more so by his zest for life and his ability to give a laugh, some wisdom and weekend enrichment to others.


Tom and Ray shared genes as evidenced by their similar outlooks and senses of humor. One of my brothers and I share the “weak knee” gene from our father.  We’ve both struggled since young adulthood with fragile knees.  He had both replaced (at age only 48) last Christmas.

As for me, many years ago I nicknamed my knees “Click and Clack”, probably thinking of those guys on “Car Talk.”  Click, on the left has had five surgeries, including a full ACL replacement and micro-fracture (yuck); Clack has had only one.  Since the 1990s my orthopaedists have been telling me that “Click’s days are numbered.  If you live a full life, then Click won’t.”

It’s appropriate then that today I say goodbye to Click.  He will join the fate of Click the Tappet brother.

Tom & Ray Magliozzi (Click & clack, the Tappet brothers)

Tom & Ray Magliozzi (Click & clack, the Tappet brothers)

By tonight I will have a new metallic left knee.

Here’s to you Click. Thanks for all the memories!

Wishing you all Peace and happy holidays!

Joe Girard © 2014

Click: RIP