Using a hog named Kevin Bacon to deliver baseballs to the home-plate umpire... hiring a Benedictine nun to give backrubs to fans... using mimes to perform instant replays between innings -- those are just a few of the promotions dreamed up by Mike Veeck, who was a recent guest on The Motley Fool Radio Show.
As Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Detroit Tigers, part owner of five baseball teams and a consultant with one, Mike is all about putting the fun back into baseball. It's a philosophy that he inherited from his father, the legendary Bill Veeck, a man perhaps best-known for his controversial marketing stunt in which he sent a midget to bat for major league baseball's St. Louis Browns. We played our game of "Buy, Sell, or Hold?" with Mike to get his take on everything from the San Diego Chicken to George Steinbrenner.
David: It's time for our game "Buy, Sell, or Hold?" We'll be throwing out things, not stocks here, but things happening in the baseball or marketing world and asking, if they were stocks, would you be buying, selling, or holding, and a sentence or two about why. Let's kick it off with -- well, he's a frequent Motley Fool Radio Show guest -- buy, sell, or hold The San Diego Chicken?
Mike: I'd sell.
Mike: I just think you gotta know when to go home.
David: Ahhh -- that's going to hurt poor Ted Giannoulas' [the man inside the chicken suit] feelings.
Mike: NO, it isn't -- because he's the first one to tell you that he's had more goodbyes than Judy Garland.
Tom: They're all the rage these days -- buy, sell, or hold bobble-head dolls?
Mike: Wow -- you know I'm going to say sell that, too, even though I'm sure that I'm in a minority. Give it a rest just for a year, let's not milk it. That's a problem that we all have, and I'm stressing we -- I throw myself in there -- but we get something good and then we ride it into the ground. Jimi Hendrix had to die so that we wouldn't do that to him.
Tom: There's been a lot of talk about the business of this sport, so if ice hockey were a stock, would you be buying going forward, or sell, or hold?
Mike: I think that this is -- I think George Gillette is right on something -- I think that this could be a good time actually to buy. I think there's no secret that there's going to be a terrible time over the next six months -- Mr. Bettman has his work cut out -- but I think I'd be buying right now -- because I do think that is a ship that is going to right itself.
David: And Mike, what about your promotional savvy, and your love of this stuff? Why not take it to another sport. Why does baseball only enjoy Mike Veeck's ideas?
Mike: It's the only thing I'm passionate about. I hold the line on that.
Tom: We talked about it earlier, buy, sell, or hold the historical significance of disco demolition night.
Mike: Oh definitely hold. I spent too many years of my life in 12- step programs because I thought it was a real tragedy. Now I understand what tragedy is as I get older, it's just part of folklore. When it ended the first half of Rolling Stone's 20-year retrospective of rock and roll I got over it.
David: And he's one of baseball's more controversial owners to say the least. If he were a stock, would you be buying, selling, or holding George Steinbrenner?
Mike: I'm not qualified to say. He never liked my father. I never got over that. I think you lead with them that brought you -- he's been very successful. You know, you gotta buy it, it's just going to keep going up....
Tom: And finally, buy, sell, or hold the Detroit Tigers in 2003?
Mike: I say you buy. They've got some young kids. The middle looks strong, [catcher Brandon] Inge, I like a lot, [short-stop Omar] Infante. It's a year and a half away, and if we don't draw 1.75 million I'll be fired and that will be the end of my major league career -- so buy all you can. Help me out, brothers!