Ralph Garr remembers Bill Veeck and ‘crazy things’

Bill Veeck perhaps was one of the more innovative and wacky owners baseball has ever had. At different times, he was the owner of the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns, but most notably the Chicago White Sox.

There, he filled Comiskey Park by shooting off fireworks when home runs were hit, adding an exploding scoreboard and was the first owner to put players names on the backs of their jerseys.

When Ralph Garr was traded by the Braves in 1976, he went to join Veeck and enjoyed playing for the eccentric owner. Garr was one of the White Sox players that season who wore those memorable above-the-knee shorts for three games.

“It was very, very interesting,’’ said Garr, who was with the White Sox for four seasons. “Mr. Veeck was very good to me. But there was no doubt there were a lot of crazy things going on. And as far as those shorts, I played just as hard as I did in long pants.’’

One of Veeck’s crazier promotions came during the 1979 season, when in a game in July he held Disco Demolition Night between games of a scheduled doubleheader with Detroit.

More than 50,000 showed up for the first game and a crate on the field filled with disco records was blown up between games. The explosion caused a lot of damage to the field and fans caused more problems when they rushed on to the grass, tearing up more turf. The White Sox had to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader.

Garr, meanwhile, was one of the starting outfielders that night and a few games later injured his right knee on the torn-up turf, which led to his retirement a year later.

“I hurt my knee a little, but I am not going to blame it on anything,’’ he said. “Mr. Veeck made a lot of money, and I can’t complain about him like others do. I have the same respect for George Steinbrenner. They were both baseball men and just wanted to win. It was a lot different back then.’’

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