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Book Report – Fun is Good by Mike Veeck

Favorite Quotes

“A Life of Creativity involves bringing out the creativity in others and seeking their opinions.  It involves lots of laughter, never taking yourself too seriously, and dealing with adversity with a smile.  It involves reinventing yourself, seeking out speaking opportunities and never missing the opportunity to learn about someone.”

“Recognize that the Journey is the Reward.”

Bill Veeck always wanted fans to expect the unexpected and believed that “Every day is Mardi Gras and Every Fan is King.”

“Once you can distance yourself from self-absorbed thoughts and take an interest in the lives of others, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn.”

“Laugh at adversity, it’s the only way to deal with it.”

“Failures become assets because we learn and grow from them.”


Key Takeaways

The St Paul Saints have tried it all when it comes to entertainment.  9-year-old PA Announcer, Guys in Drag rake the infield during the game, nuns give massages, they have a pig mascot, they’ve had food fights during games, they gave out inflatable bats with Viagra on it, they hired mimes to reenact close plays

Celebrations are key to building their fun culture.  After games they pull out a keg and have fun.  When they sell a big sponsorship, they may just shut down the office for the afternoon and to go the nearest bar.   When he was with Detroit Tigers and the sold 20,000 tickets to United Auto Workers, they sent out a press release and the employees involved received even more recognition.

How can we create and share more news about our teammate’s accomplishments?

Mike’s father, Bill Veeck was one of the last men to own a professional sports team not having made a fortune in another business.  He couldn’t write off losses against other businesses, he had to make it work.

“We Hire people who can take our jobs.”  We hire people who are fun, and we like to be around.  People who have different interests.


  • Ask candidates about their interests. Ask them about the last book they read or movie they saw?  Ask them what they do on a Saturday afternoon.  Get them talking about their passions.
  • Look for the best person available. Don’t just look for positions.  Look for people who can help in many other areas and perhaps become a star. “A Renaissance person who just happens to have accounting skills.”


Look for people that lighten up the workplace.  They don’t take themselves too seriously.  They laugh at themselves.  They make fun of themselves.

Outback Steakhouse – Chris Sullivan Chairman – Most proud about the success of Outback is the fact that they’ve helped 200 managers become millionaires with their Managing Partner Program.  Each manager is given the option to purchase 10 percent equity in the restaurant for $25,000 and sign a five year contract.   Most sign a second five year contract with the story.  This program helps them nurture, develop and retain talented people.


Chiefs and Indians

We are all in this together.  As a chief, help the Indians take your job.  Nurture them, work with them.  Be in it together.  Bill Veeck was first to show up and last to leave.  His employees loved him.  You didn’t work for Bill Veeck, you worked with him.

Bill Veeck always corrected people who said they loved working for him.  Work with me, he would say.


Lessons From Bill Veeck

 “If we learn nothing else from Bill Veeck, let’s remember that it’s possible to be the hardest-working person and still be the one who has the most fun.”

  • It’s all about the customer
  • It’s not about you
  • Keep it clean
    A clean ballpark is a happy ballpark – show the same respect for your customers like you would your houseguests.*Customers judge your business long before they meet you.”
  • Laugh at Adversity
  • Never Lose Your Childhood Curiosity
    Always look at things through the eyes of a child and constantly ask Why?
  • Money has little relationship to enjoying life.
    “Don’t spend so much time in the pursuit of money.  Pursue knowledge from books and people instead.”
  • Be color blind, gender-blind, age-blind and experience-blind.
  • A terrible thing happens when you don’t hustle – nothingIn the early stages of a business, you have to hustle to survive. Even after you’ve achieved money and success, you’ll look back fondly at that time you had to hustle.

    The joy is in the journey, not in the reveling of the success.
    We reminisce about the tough times because that is when we were most creative and resourceful.

  • Speak to everyone including the mediaNever miss an opportunity to speak in front of a group. Every person and every company has a story.  Find ways to share it more. This takes hustling and reaching out and talking to anyone and everyone.

    Veeck once held a press conference to announce he was expanding the ladies restrooms at Miller Park.  The press came and shared the story.

    Veeck once held a press conference to announce he was expanding the ladies restrooms at Miller Park.  The press came and shared the story.

  • Live a Life of Creativity


Power of Irreverence

Irreverence sells. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself or your company.

Veeck makes a great example of SPAM. The canned meat company gets it.  They have a SPAM fan club and SPAMMobile that travels the country.  SPAM sometimes sponsors the Zambonis that clean ice at hockey games and turn them into the SPAM-bonis.

They have a SPAM museum in Austin, Minnesota on SPAM Boulevard.  Inside your greeted by a SPAMbassaor.  There’s a 3,500 can Wall of SPAM, SPAM Theatre and a full line of merchandise.

In St Paul – they had a sign for a local funeral home that said “Drive Carefully. We can Wait.”

They did Salute to Duct Tape Night.  They did Tanya Harding Mini Bat Night.

They had Mime-O-Vision and had Mimes stand on dugout and reenact close plays.

Instead of giving one bottle of beer to each fans, give 1,000 bottles of beer to one lucky winner.

Current events provide an endless stream of material.


Every Day is Opening Day

Maintain the magic of opening day by mixing things up constantly, moving people around and bringing in new people.  Need to always keep it fresh! Change is good.

In St. Paul they hired a group of improvisers and had them all dress up as different characters like a Samurai Warrior, a magician, a hockey goalie and ushered fans to their seat – they became known as ushertainers.

They focused on kids and brought in real animals including a pig delivering baseballs to home plate.  They had a name the team contest with the pig as well.

It’s imperative that companies and individuals continually mix things up.  It’s the only way you stay fresh and keep improving.   Move people around with your company, bring in new people. Take on new jobs. Question to ask: Do you have 10 years of experience or 1 year repeated 10 times?

How can we continually reimagine every area of the ballpark and see things new for fans.


What Will I Implement & Ideas to Consider

  • Recognition Pins or Stickers: Love how the Charleston RiverDogs issued pins to 10-15 fans before each game with instruction to give them to employees who provided great customer experience. The 3 employees who collected the most pins at the end of the season received cash prizes.

How can we do something similar where our teammates can proudly display how Fans First they are?

  • Try to make at least one person laugh every day.
  • More Fun Office Environment:

Add Toys & Snacks to Offices – Make each office seem inviting and welcoming. My last few visits to kick off 2021, I’ve brought in cookies and someone said the Cookie Fairy keeps coming in – Own the Cookie Fairy and always bring cookies.

Add Jenga Set or Other Games that Can Be Played

  • Welcome Kids to be a part of the office. Have kids answer the phone.  Have kids run the ballpark like we did in Gastonia.  Kids take over all the positions at the stadium.

What positions could we hire kids to do – that would be fun?  We already have a high-fiver, we have a coach, we’ve had a host.  On field announcer?  Grandstand umpire?  Ticket takers?  Banana – lemonade stand?

  • Appoint Kangaroo Court in Office or the Jar from New Girl where people have to pay for stupid things! Adds levity.
  • Better/More Fun Meetings

    More meetings out of office – go to restaurant, go outside somewhere. Mix up locations and Mix up people. More Inclusive Meetings – invite people from different departments and perspectives

  • Cleaner Ballpark with More Flowers/Landscaping

In St. Paul, they planted flowers everywhere, installed hanging planters where dirt didn’t exist, painted murals throughout the ballpark.  They painted the bathrooms and hung artwork and kept the ballpark immaculate.

People should be cleaning constantly.

  • Golden Throne – Bathroom Stalls

Each woman’s bathroom should have Golden Throne – All Gold Toilet and Stall. the most immaculate stall, artwork, décor and even a framed “Holy Shit” painting.

  • Turn Press Box into SkyBox and Sell it as Special Suite for Fans
  • Hire people from local comedy clubs. Find people that make you laugh during interview.  Find people who keeps things loose in the office, who likes to joke and play pranks – think about the best clubhouses.
  • Host an Idea Contest with Game Day Staff, Interns and Full Time Staff

*Incentivize Ideas, Implementation and Stories

When Veeck was with the Detroit Tigers, he challenged employees to give their best ideas to improve the company.  He was looking most for promotion and marketing ideas to generate fun and excitement for their customers.

First prize was a trip to Hawaii.  Second prize was cruise to Bermuda and third prize was all expense paid trip to Las Vegas.

The contest generated 80 great ideas.  30% of workforce participated in contest.

Trips are always better incentives than cash which are usually just used to pay off bills.

  • Host an Idea Contest with Fans

Team up with Travel Agent or Cruise Line and giveaway a Cruise for two for best idea for the ballpark.  Have fans submit ideas on website.  Narrow it down to five and have a vote on what we should do!

Could be promotion at the ballpark, food item, specialty game?

  • Give Fans a Shot

In St Paul, they auctioned an at-bat with proceeds benefiting charity.  A 35 year old video game producer paid $5,601 to bat during a preseason game.

In Mobile, we gave fans an opportunity to coach with the team.   How can we give opportunity for fans to play?

  • Train someone to take your job.

Make yourself indispensable by developing talent.

This is an area where I need a lot of work.  First with entertainment.  I need to work on developing our bench and help people see the show the way I do.  I need to look at what other skills someone could bring to the table that may be add more to the show than I can.   It starts by being clear on what I’m looking for and spending a ton of time developing the talent.

  • Spend the Extra Two Minutes

“Why don’t we take the extra two minutes to talk to people?  Quality customer service doesn’t run on a clock.  It runs on heart.”


How does It fit the Fans First Way?

The theme that kept coming up throughout the book was “We’re all in this together.”  Veeck shares stories from working with his Dad where he picked up horse manure at Suffolk Downs to Bill Murray picking up trash after concerts.

While fun is the main theme of the book and one of our Fans First Way core beliefs, this togetherness hit home.  To create fans, we have to be one ourselves.  We have to be there every step of the way or have experienced the work environment and the ballpark experience.

That is one reason why I love Undercover Fan and Frontline Fan so much.  We put ourselves in other people’s shoes.  We are all in this together to be successful.

How can we continue to make the ballpark experience more fun and CARE more for our teammates and fans?  How can we stay curious and keep moving forward on a better experience for everyone we touch?