The family of former White Sox owner and baseball maverick Bill Veeck is appalled at the plans of a Chicago tavern owner to auction off their patriarch's wooden leg next month.
"It's offensive to me," said Mike Veeck, owner of the minor league St. Paul Saints. "Our family would be fine with it if the money was for charity....It would be tasteless, but at least it would be doing some good."
Organizers of the auction expect Bill Veeck's leg to bring $10,000 to $15,000 when it goes up for sale Nov. 18-19. The minimum bid is $1,000.
Brian Marren of Mastro Fine Sports Auctions of Oak Brook, Ill., said he has turned down some items as inappropriate but the leg isn't a problem for him.
"I think Bill Veeck would get a real kick out of it," Marren said. "He was known for his fun promotions. He sent a midget up as a pinch-hitter."
That's true, but at least Eddie Gaedel was alive and had a say in the matter.
"If people think this is the same as one of Bill's promotions, then they just didn't get what he was about," said Veeck's widow, Mary Frances. "My first reaction was ooh, gross. I can't imagine anybody buying that."
The midget had a much-smaller-than-average strike zone, which is defined as somewhere between the middle of the chest and the knees.
Bill Veeck gave the old leg to bar owner Rich Bryles in 1977 after he got a new prosthesis. He autographed it: "To Rich. Can't beat the mileage. Hope it fits. 2-23-77. Bill Veeck."
The leg hung in the bar for years until it was replaced awhile back by a stained Bill Clinton tie.
"I got tired of dusting it," a bartender said of the leg.
The elder Veeck's foot was amputated while he was a Marine during World War II. As time went by, more of the leg had to be amputated, eventually claiming it above the knee.
"Dad always had five or six legs, a couple A-line legs, a couple for backup and a couple available for spare parts," Mike Veeck said. "There was always great and good humor about this. We were raised to poke fun.
"He was great about it. He would say he had advantages over other people, that someone else had to buy twice as many shoes or their feet got twice as cold in bad weather," he said.
Veeck titled his autobiography Veeck As In Wreck and recounted some of his many stunts in his campaign to enliven baseball - and draw fans to his ballparks.
When friends offered to buy the leg just to get it off the market, Mike Veeck told them no. He doesn't want anyone to give money to Bryles.
"I can't wait to call the IRS," he said, "and make sure he pays the gift tax on it."