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Minor-league team cancels vasectomy giveaway

June 7, 1997 GMT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Perhaps Bat Day is not such a bad idea after all.

The minor league Charleston RiverDogs, a day after announcing one of baseball’s strangest promotions _ a free vasectomy in honor of Father’s Day _ reversed course and canceled the event Friday.

``We found that clearly people didn’t like the idea. We are sensitive to our fans’ wants,″ said General Manager Mark Schuster.

One of those fans, Bishop David Thompson, a season-ticket holder who is head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, called the team to complain.


``It’s just bad taste,″ said Monsignor Sam R. Miglarese, the diocese’s vicar general. ``It trivializes fatherhood.″

Thursday night and most of Friday, however, team officials, including owner Mike Veeck, were enthusiastic about the promotion.

``Some men find it very useful,″ said Carol Killough, the marketing vice president who dreamed up the idea.

Anyone 21 or older, male or female, at the June 13 game against the Charleston, W.Va., Alley Cats would have been able to register for the drawing. One lucky guy was to have received the operation.

``I heard they were going to have some way out promotions,″ RiverDogs fan Stan Collins said. ``This is about as way out as it gets.″

Since buying the Class A RiverDogs this season, Veeck has brought his skewed view of baseball fun to this Southern city. He’s had Bill Murray Mask Night (Murray is Veeck’s longtime friend) and plans Great Inventor’s Night to honor such things as the Chia-Pet.

But this one seemed to have out-Veecked Veeck, who was the mastermind of the Chicago White Sox’s notorious Disco Demolition Night and whose dad, the late Bill Veeck, once sent a midget to bat in the majors.

Veeck, who also owns the St. Paul Saints, was in Minneapolis for their game and did not immediately return a phone call Friday night. But he is accustomed to backlash.

In 1949, his father buried the Cleveland Indians’ pennant from the year before in center field, complete with a horse-drawn caisson, and was criticized for making fun of the dead.

Four years ago, when the younger Veeck owned a minor-league team in Miami, he sponsored a tribute to ``Two Dead Fat Guys″ _ Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth both died on Aug. 16 _ and was similarly swamped with criticism.


In 1979, he invited fans to burn disco records in the outfield at Chicago’s old Comiskey Park and started a near riot. The White Sox had to forfeit the game, and police had to herd rowdy fans out of the park.

``I learned more from Disco Demolition than every Bat Day I ever ran,″ Veeck said. ``The thing about promotions is to try and make people think. If you make people think, it removes the fear.″

The RiverDogs have not scheduled a substitute promotion for the June 13 game. The June 15 Father’s Day promotion, a pregame father-son baseball clinic, will go on as planned.

The minor leagues are known for outlandish promotions to bring in fans on a summer’s evening.

Captain Dynamite, whose act was to get in a box, blow it up, then walk away unscathed, made the minor-league circuit for several years. And in 1989, the then-Charleston Rainbows ran a motorcyclist through a flaming wall of Spam.

If no one had claimed the vasectomy prize, Charleston relief pitcher Trent Brown had said he was willing to face the knife. The father of two had his wife’s blessing.

``Our family is already complete,″ he said.