Son of former Indians owner Bill Veeck glad to see 'Chief Wahoo' logo will be eliminated

Mike Veeck, whose late father Bill owned the Cleveland Indians when they adopted the "Chief Wahoo" logo for players' uniforms in 1947, told ESPN's Outside the Lines he's pleased it will be eliminated and that he thinks his dad would approve of the move.

"Bill Veeck would've been all for the change and would've done it before now," Mike Veeck said when contacted by OTL about last week's announcement by Major League Baseball that Cleveland will rid uniforms of the logo after the 2018 season.

The move to eliminate the logo follows years of protests characterizing it as an insensitive, racist depiction of Native Americans.

Mike Veeck, the longtime president and co-owner of the independent minor league St. Paul Saints and a former MLB team executive, took the Indians to task for delaying the removal until 2019.

"If you're going to do it, do it now," Veeck said, adding that his father would've taken immediate action to respond to the outcry.

"I think he'd be pragmatic. It was right for his team when we all watched 'cowboys and Indians.' And later, it was inappropriate. He wasn't above offending, but never deliberately hurtful. So, if it hurt people, he would've changed it right away."

The elder Veeck bought the Indians in 1946. A year later, he had the toothy grinning, hook-nosed, pony-tailed, red feather-clad caricature added to uniforms -- after the 17-year-old nephew of a graphics store owner submitted it in a logo competition.

"I loved him dearly," Mike, 66, said of his father, "but artistic design was not his strength."

He said his father had an appreciation for Native American culture and that he doesn't think he encountered any disparagement of the symbol. Its teenage creator seven decades ago was Walter Goldbach, who died in December at age 88, so neither he nor Bill Veeck will be around for its end.

In 1948, the Indians won their second and last World Series title. Veeck sold the team in '49 and went on to buy the St. Louis Browns and then the Chicago White Sox -- twice -- in an innovative, colorful career that earned him Hall of Fame induction in 1991, five years after his death at age 71.

He is most remembered for promotional stunts with the Browns and White Sox, such as having 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel come to bat (in uniform No. 1/8), "Grandstand Manager's Day" (when fans could vote to implement in-game strategy by holding up placards), an exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park and the first uniforms featuring players in short pants.

Bill and Mike also collaborated on Chicago's infamous 1979 "Disco Demolition Night," which resulted in a riot and a forfeit.

"When people hear 'Bill Veeck,'" Mike Veeck said, "they think of outdated marketing ideas, but he was so far ahead of his time. Imagine a guy who signed Larry Doby in 1947 and, in 1942, proposed buying the Phillies and hiring Negro Leaguers."

Doby broke the American League color barrier, three months after Jackie Robinson's debut for the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers.

Mike Veeck said MLB's pace of play initiative is affirmation of his father's forward thinking.

"Back in 1960, he had a 'Pitchometer' on the Comiskey scoreboard to count down the time between pitches, with a siren to go off if the pitcher went over 20 seconds."

Although Bill Veeck was dissuaded from using the 20-second monitoring device, his son implemented a similar one in St. Paul 25 years ago, but just once.

"It's a rule, for God's sake," Mike Veeck said. "But the umpires complained because they didn't want to enforce it."

An old family story recounted by Mike Veeck was about how when his grandfather William Veeck Sr. was president of the Chicago Cubs in the 1920s, he brought young son Bill into the "money room" at Wrigley Field and taught him that although they knew green to be the color of what was in the till, they didn't know the color of each paying customer -- and it didn't matter.

"Chief Wahoo," Mike Veeck said, was simply "an idea that came and went. I would never say my father was an insensitive man."

Mike Veeck doesn't find the "Indians" team name to be offensive, but added that he's "impossible to offend" and that if others are offended, it should be discussed with the affected parties.

As for the "Redskins" nickname of the National Football League's Washington franchise, Mike Veeck said that's a different matter.

"It's time for a change, and I don't get the 'historic meaning' argument," he said of the team steadfastly retaining the name despite vocal opposition. "What's wrong with correcting a bad idea?"