EDITOR'S NOTE: "15 Minutes With Bryce" is a feature in which columnist Bryce Donovan sits down with local celebrities and asks them things most people would never think to -- or want to know the answers to, for that matter. This week, he sits down with Mike Veeck, president of the Charleston RiverDogs.
Q. What exactly do you do for a living?
A. I'm not really certain. I'm on planes a lot. And I have a business card. But as for a job description, they don't make cards small enough.
Q. Where does your sense of humor come from?
A. My dad was very self-effacing. And my mom actually was the better writer and better speaker. ... Dad had the constant one-liners, and so if you were going to grow up without playing rope-a-dope or covering up, you had to come back.
Q. My wife and I just had a son. We went the unique name route (River), but we've got nothing on you. Explain how you came up with the name Night Train for your son.
A. (It comes from) Night Train Lane. I always thought that was the coolest nickname. He was married to Diane Lane, and he invented the clothesline. What else could you do? ... Nobody picks Mike on the playground, but you give me a River, we'll be like, "We'll take River." Can he play? Who cares! You got another River?
Q. Here's some serendipity for you: You were actually the keynote speaker at my college graduation (College of Charleston, December '98). Do you remember that?
A. Oh, I remember that day because one, I had an abscessed tooth drained the day before, and I was on my way to getting fired by the Tampa Bay Rays, but I was so honored to do that. I always remember two things that Larry Doby told me, he said, "Be brief and be funny."
Q. I think I recall you talking for two hours. But let's not get bogged down in details. What would you say is the RiverDogs' promotion you are most proud or fond of?
A. (Long silence.) Wow. I don't know. That's a really good question.
Q. That's why I'm good at my job.
A. Man you are, that's like, I'm like, "Wow." Well, I've canceled several. The vasectomy (night) lasted for 80 minutes and we canceled that. ... Voodoo night was funny. ... I scheduled it against Savannah, with Lady Chablis, on Friday the 13th, all that's funny. But when it happens to fall on Good Friday? It ain't funny. (Laughs.) (Bill) Murray and I are playing golf and he goes, "You know this voodoo night? They're gonna kill ya." I said, "No, they won't." I said, "This is really funny." And he goes, "You'll cancel it. It ain't that funny." I said that won't happen, and the next day we announced it and, oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. ... I loved Tonya Harding mini bat night.
Q. Speaking of Big Ern, how did you and Bill Murray meet?
A. We were both in Chicago in the '70s. I was with the White Sox and he was with Second City, and after I retired after blowing up those disco records, he said, "Let's find Veeck, maybe he's done pouting." ... Except for the fact that he's a Cubs fan and I'm a lifelong White Sox fan, it's a fairly peaceful friendship.
Q. Besides "Garfield," what would you say is your favorite movie of his?
A. Well, I'll tell ya. "Mad Dog and Glory" is my favorite. When he went against character when he played the gangster, I loved that. And I loved "Quick Change." I think that he should finish his career doing a show on Broadway and directing again.
Q. Is the way somebody pronounces your last name a good way to weed out telemarketers?
A. "Mr. Veeeeck! Hello!" Yeah, it's a great way. Nobody ever gets it right.
Q. What would be the worst possible time/place to bust out laughing?
A. A funeral for someone you dislike.
Q. Who is the coolest person you've ever met?
A. Bob Dylan. ... It was on my birthday like 10 years ago. ... I shook hands with him, my voice went up about 30 octaves and I said, (high-pitched voice) "You outta ... (clears throat, deepens voice) You outta sing the national anthem sometime at the ball park." ... He was charming. Just a terrific guy.