Following the life story of Mike Veeck, promoter of the Charleston RiverDogs, The Saint of Second Chances is a documentary about baseball and family legacy that’s both funny and full of heart | Credit: Courtesy Netflix

The Saint of Second Chances, a Netflix documentary that premieres Sept. 19, tells the story of Mike Veeck, master baseball promoter for the Charleston RiverDogs.

Mike Veeck is the son of the late Hall of Fame baseball owner Bill Veeck, and so it comes as no surprise that the film is about baseball — but much more than that, the film is about family. It’s about fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, legacy and forgiveness. It’s a heartfelt and unexpected journey through the comeback of a man with a good heart.

The first half of The Saint of Second Chances tells Mike Veeck’s story through flashbacks, opening with a shot of actor Charlie Day, who portrays a younger Veeck, drunk and asleep on a pool float after having lost everything. Veeck grew up in the shadow of his father, who is called in the film “one of the last great baseball hustlers.” He set out to prove himself working under his dad at the Chicago White Sox. That’s when Veeck blew up his — and his father’s — career, accidentally inciting a riot during the promotional events for which he became notorious.

The Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago was a pivotal turning point in Veeck’s life — in one evening, he had tarnished the family legacy. The event is explored in the film through current-day interviews with Veeck, in which he’s able to show a new understanding of the ugly elements that event was laced with, plus flashback reenactments that take viewers into his emotional and mental anguish following the incident.

In those flashbacks, Veeck portrays his late father alongside Day, an experience that Veeck said was quite a trip.

“In filming, there were all kinds of feelings that bubbled to the surface. I used to say that the day my dad died, he and I had nothing left to say. But that wasn’t true. I had a lot more to say to him. And I said it to him over that period of, I don’t know, three weeks? That was a great experience. I mean, now I don’t have to go to therapy,” he told the Charleston City Paper with a laugh.

Comeback kid

Exiled from the game he loved, Veeck spent the next decade clawing his way up from rock bottom.

He redeemed himself through his ownership and promotion of teams in the minor league, where he was able to share that second chance with others, bringing players like Dave Stevens, a double amputee, on the field at the independent Minnesota league Saint Paul Saints.

“We all have scar tissue,” Veeck said. “There’s not one of us that’s ever been on Earth without scar tissue. What I learned was passing [your second chance on] is important. And you’re only as great as the people that you’ve influenced or come into contact with. I couldn’t have made it if I hadn’t had 200 second chances. I’m familiar with it, unfortunately, way more than I should be.”

While enjoying a new phase of his career at the Saint Paul Saints, Veeck got back into
— and majorly expanded — the kind of baseball promotional hijinks that his family name signifies. At 40, he fell in love with his future wife, Libby, a turning point in the film’s focus.

Honoring family

It’s the last chapter of the film that will leave viewers a sobbing wreck. Veeck’s daughter, Rebecca, has a clear knack for her father’s baseball zaniness and is the heir-apparent to the Veeck family baseball throne — until she became ill and ultimately passed away from Batten disease in 2019.

The film was originally written about Rebecca, titled at one point The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, said producer Jon Berg at a private Charleston screening in August. Berg joined forces with fellow producer and Veeck’s longtime friend Fran Zeuli to get this story into the hands of directors Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) and Jeff Malmberg (MARWENCOL), who will on Sept. 19, present the film to Netflix’s 230 million users.

The Saint of Second Chances handles the heart of the film with care and honesty, not wrapping up the tragedy of losing Rebecca with an easy bow. But it does celebrate in the face of grief. The documentary screening at the RiverDogs Segra Club on Aug. 25 ended in a moment of revelry for Rebecca, instead of a moment of silence, (complete with miniature confetti cannons and shiny noisemakers, in typical Veeck fashion).

Veeck said what he wants people to take away from the film is how much we all have in common.

“I want them to walk away realizing what wonderful creatures we are. No matter how many times we fall. It’s just you gotta get up. And I learned that from my daughter because she died with such dignity. So I want people to walk away realizing we think we’re all on our own island. But there’s so many things that unite us, that make us similar and that give us something to talk about.”

One final thing to know: You do not have to enjoy or know anything about baseball to enjoy this film.

“I don’t think a RiverDogs game is about baseball,” Veeck added. “It’s about community. It’s about children, and it’s about the sound of laughter. I hope that the documentary is the same thing.”

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