Chicago’s on-the-diamond achievements have been well-documented by baseball historians but the Windy City is also home to many of the games more impressive moments in the front office.
The following is a summary of some of the most historical moments on the business side of baseball as told by Chicago native and Publisher of "The Migala Report," a sports marketing periodical, Dan Migala.
1. Disco Demolition Night: While this promotion often tops the Worst Sports Promotion ideas ever, I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote my dear friend and creator of the promotion Mike Veeck who says in true Chicago fashion, “Chicago’s sometimes referred to as the Second City. It’s nice to know we’re tops in something!”
The promotion started out as gimmick to leverage radio time on 97.9 FM in Chicago and allow listeners to buy tickets for 98 cents and have the chance to blow up disco records in the middle of a doubleheader. The second half of the doubleheader never happened due to a rowdy crowd and the White Sox forfeited the game.
Ending both the Mike Veeck-era of the Sox and, arguably, disco in Chicago.
2. Beanie Babies: The Chicago Cubs didn’t invent Beanie Babies. They just took a big idea and made it bigger. And then Marketing Chief and now team President John McDonough used this idea to ensure that children of both genders had even greater incentive to visit the Friendly Confines.
In the world of sports marketing, imitation is the highest form of flattery. And McDonough and the Cubs were more than flattered as every MLB team followed suit with their own similar promotions in the years to come.
3. Fireworks: White Sox owner Bill Veeck was equal master of the little guy and common sense. “There’s fireworks on the field with the players. There should be fireworks in the sky too!”
Thus, the exploding scoreboard was born as a crowning achievement for a win or a long ball with the world’s first firework shooting scoreboard at Old Comiskey Park. The fireworks were launched from the pinwheels in the scoreboard that were removed to the new stadium and still reside within the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular Field.
And for those looking to touch one of the pinwheels, an extra one is on the wall for pictures at the SportMart store on LaSalle and Ontario in the city.
4. 7:11: The Chicago White Sox most recent promotion was right on time. The Sox sold a sponsorship to the convenience store 7-Eleven in a very unique sponsorship that changed the gametime from 7:05 pm to 7:11 pm as a way to promote the store.
The promotion received worldwide coverage and was recently honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown who displays a ticket from the first 7:11 pm game.
5. Promotional giveaways: Hats, T-shirts and bobbleheads are staples today for fans looking for extra incentive to go to a game but they got their start in Chicago. Another Bill Veeck creation, he leveraged company relationships to pay for trinket items branded with the company’s name as a thank you for fans coming to the game.
His idea is now duplicated in stadiums and arenas over the world.
Dan Migala is the Publisher of "The Migala Report," a monthly sports business periodical. He is also completing a book with former White Sox GM Roland Hemond titled "Dugout Wisdom" that features life lessons from baseball hall-of-famers. Information on the book is available at www.dugoutwisdom.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.