William “Night Train” Veeck
If you’re one of William “Night Train” Veeck’s many followers on Twitter, you’ll see plenty of conversation with local fans, White Sox news and retweets of anything remotely useful, humorous or touching. You’ll get Train’s opinion on all things sports, and everything else, too — like his take on why the latest Taco Bell commercial fails. You’ll feel like you’re talking to a good friend and like you’re part of the Chicago White Sox organization, where Train has worked as group sales executive since graduating from SCS in 2010 with a master’s degree in sports administration.
“A degree from Northwestern offers great student-centered instruction, credibility and it’s in Chicago — a great place if you live and breathe baseball,” he says.
Train’s social media savvy may well become the latest chapter in the Veeck family’s influence on baseball. As a recent Crain’s Chicago Business profile on Train put it, “the Veeck name is to baseball what mustard is to hot dogs.” That’s because the Veecks have helped define the baseball experience. William Sr. was a Chicago sportswriter and president of the Chicago Cubs. Bill Jr. owned the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns. He is credited with everything from putting surnames on the backs of jerseys, ivy in the outfield at Wrigley and the ritual singing of “Take me out to the ballgame,” to hiring one of the first African-American players and staging the infamous “Disco Demolition” stunt. Under his ownership, the Sox won their first pennant in 40 years.
Train’s father, Mike Veeck, partly owned the Charleston River Dogs and helped pioneer the concept of bringing live bands to ballparks. And then there’s Train, who had worked for three minor league teams — more than 1,000 games with the River Dogs alone — and a sports marketing firm before accepting an internship with the Chicago White Sox and bringing the family name back to Chicago.
“In my grandfather’s time, you could go with your gut,” he explains. “But the business is more complex and formal now. I have some of the Veeck crazy in me — two out of every five ideas may get me arrested — but now promotions need to be backed by a business case. The MSA program complemented my background by giving me new skills in quantifiable research and finance and helping me see all sides of the operation.”
Bill Veeck Jr. was also known for staying close to the fans, once going from bar to bar to apologize for an unpopular trade. But today’s White Sox fans reach far beyond the old South Side taverns, both culturally and geographically. Train’s MSA education and his keen sense of the power of social media are helping him meet the organization’s new challenges.
“With Facebook and Twitter, the fans can be anywhere and I can be in touch. I can discover and get to know new fan bases while preserving the legacy of accessibility and listening to fans,” he says. “The MSA program helped me develop professionally because it’s customizable to your interests — it’s not a rigid framework that has been in place for years. And since Chicago was a new start for me, it was great meeting people and developing a network. And that’s helpful regardless of your aspirations or background.”