|Veeck brings 'fun' philosophy to Citadel class|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 25 February 2008 09:07|
The idea, Veeck tells his graduate marketing class at the Citadel, was to show fans of the Class A Charleston RiverDogs what their picturesque riverside stadium, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, might look like if a freak Southern blizzard blasted through.
Veeck and his crew tagged it, ``The Joe in the Snow,'' and waited for laughs that never came.
``People will take anything you give them,'' Veeck explains. ``And they didn't want these.''
The lesson? Don't be afraid to try far out ideas - and have enough storage space to handle failed giveaways.
It's among the topics Veeck discussed on a recent Wednesday night with his students in a class called ``The Art of Selling,'' a first for minor league baseball's leading showman.
Veeck, the 57-year-old son of noted baseball promoter Bill Veeck, has made a reputation for outlandishness all his own. He's held promotions such as Nobody Night, Vasectomy Night and onfield homages to the ``Star Wars'' saga, complete with Imperial Storm Troopers.
He codified his philosophy in his book, ``Fun Is Good,'' and now finds himself teaching behind the historic, rigid ramparts of South Carolina's military school not necessarily known for good times. ``Which is part of the wonderful irony here,'' Veeck says gleefully.
Veeck grew up with his dad's promotional bent to the twisted and bizarre - the elder Veeck was perhaps best remembered for sending 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel up to bat while owner of the St. Louis Browns in 1951.
Veeck, co-owner of the RiverDogs, holds little back from his students.
``There's never a dull moment,'' said Megan Chambers.
Veeck explains in great detail the miscalculations that led to Disco Demolition Night in 1979, an event that turned into a riot when fans surged onto the field between games of a White Sox twinight doubleheader, forcing Chicago to forfeit the second game to Detroit.
He told them about Vasectomy Night, a Father's Day giveaway where one ``lucky'' man attending a RiverDogs game would win a vasectomy. The promotion was canceled after Charleston management received complaints.
More successful was Nobody Night, the 2002 plan that locked out fans as the RiverDogs attempted to set a minor league record for lowest attendance. ``That turned out to be a great promotion,'' Veeck said. ``But it takes a lot of courage.''
Veeck, part owner of five minor league teams, says it also took courage on the Citadel's part to bring him on.
Citadel athletic administrator Andy Solomon helps out the RiverDogs and had become friendly with Veeck. Solomon brought the idea to Citadel's graduate studies administrators, who were eager to have Veeck's expertise.
Once word got out, the course enrollment cap was twice expanded to accommodate 27 students this semester, said Col. John Carter, head of the Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Science.
``I guess it shows people on the outside that we do have fun here,'' Carter said with a smile.
It wasn't always that easy. When Veeck's group first took over Charleston's South Atlantic League club in the early 1990s, games were played at crumbling College Park. His group partnered to help build the new stadium, which opened in 1996 and where the Citadel now plays its home games.
Veeck remembers contentious times trying to coexist with military school administrators unwilling and unaccustomed to compromise. To think 15 years later, he'd be part of the Citadel's faculty was a leap he never saw coming, Veeck says.
``I'm having the most fun of my life,'' he says.
Carter said the early feedback from students and Citadel administrators is overwhelmingly positive and Veeck said he would love to keep teaching as his schedule permits.
The fun he's having is apparent during the lively, three-hour class.
Veeck sprinkles stories of his past and his distaste for Major League Baseball management amid the night's assignment to come up with ideas to improve Citadel's men's basketball attendance. Veeck breaks categories into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The proposals come rapidly and range from selling the best seats to bonding with local pro teams like the RiverDogs for corporate outings.
When one student worries his idea is too cheesy, Veeck interrupts: ``I'm the king of cheese. Never apologize in this class for cheesy.''