Why Baseball Doc ‘Saint of Second Chances’ Is Making Grown Men Cry
“The most beautiful thing is a ballpark filled with people,” says the late Bill Veeck in an archival clip in The Saint of Second Chances, and as Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg’s amusing and inspiring documentary illustrates, no one made that experience more beautiful than he did.
A national-pastime legend who was president of the Chicago Cubs (he installed the ivy on Wrigley Field’s outfield walls) and owner of both the Cleveland Indians (he integrated the American League) and Chicago White Sox, Veeck was the last of the genuine old-timers, more concerned with giving fans a joyous experience than simply treating them as revenue-boosting customers. “This world would be better if more people didn't take it too seriously. You know, it isn't grim. It's kind of wonderful,” he says in another interview, and it was an opinion that guided him throughout his life and, ultimately, defined his professional legacy.
A man with a peg leg (due to a WWII injury), a fondness for beer, and a gregarious personality, Veeck was a peerless showman, but he’s not the primary subject of The Saint of Second Chances. Rather, that would be his son Mike, who grew up in the shadow of his famous father and instinctively took after him—a fact that became apparent when he joined his dad’s White Sox staff. As he tells it in the on-camera chats that guide this rollicking Netflix documentary (premiering Sept. 19), there was no way to live up to Bill, especially on Chicago’s South Side, where he was viewed as “one of us.” Nonetheless, for all Bill’s popularity, he wasn’t wealthy; having hustled his way into purchasing the team, he and the White Sox were severely strapped for cash. Mike thus became de facto head of promotions, tasked with concocting any stunt that might put butts in seats.