Veecks and Bill Murray add new flair to Joliet Slammers

Owner Nick Semaca, GM Heather Mills staying with slammers as new group joins team

Mike Veeck and his son, William Night Train Veeck, introduce themselves to the Joliet City Council Stadium Committee on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. The Veecks and actor Bill Murray lead a group that is buying a majority interest in the Joliet Slammers.

Mike Veeck, a onetime promotions director with the Chicago White Sox who jokes apologetically about his ill-fated Disco Demolition Night in the 1979 season, is not looking to blow up the Joliet Slammers as he comes in as a new owner.

Mike Veeck, his son William Night Train Veeck, and actor Bill Murray, a longtime partner in minor league baseball ventures, are lead owners in a group that is buying a majority interest in the Joliet team.

Night Train is William Veeck’s legal middle name and the name he goes by.

The Veecks are not strangers to Joliet baseball.

Mike Veck was in attendance at Monday’s Joliet City Council meeting, where he quipped that he’s “lusted” after the Joliet team for a long time.

But in a conversation before the meeting, Veeck emphasized Joliet made a splash when the team was formed in 2002 as the JackHammers and was part of the Northern League that included the St. Paul Saints, where he was the owner.

Other teams in the league took note of the 3,500-plus attendance Joliet was getting in those days.

“It was the buzz throughout the Northern League,” Veeck said.

Mike Veeck (second from right) and Joliet Slammers owner Nick Semaca (right) spend some time at Joliet City Hall on Monday with former Slammers player Ryan Quigley (left), now director of institutional advancement at Joliet Catholic Academy and Slammers season ticket holder Craig Lichtenwalter. Nov. 6, 2023.

The new ownership will not bring a complete makeover of the Slammers.

Nick Semaca, majority owner, is staying on with a 25% interest in the team with his business partner.

“We wanted Nick to stay in,” Mike Veeck told the City Council on Monday. “There will be a great deal of continuity, which is important to all of us.”

General Manager Heather Mills also is staying with the team.

“She’s been a good friend of mine for quite some time, and this is going to be a lot of fun,” William Night Train Veeck told the City Council on Monday.

Night Train, like his father, formerly worked in the front office for the White Sox.

The city of Joliet owns Duly Health and Care Field where the Slammers play, and city approval is needed for any sale of more than 50% of the team ownership. The council on Tuesday approved the sale.

Joliet Slammers’ Scott Holzwasser connects for a double against the Ottawa Titans. Friday, May 13, 2022, in Joliet.

Creating a buzz in Joliet

The Veeck’s may have a flair of promotion they get from the late Bill Veeck, Mike’s father and a former owner of the White Sox known for his promotions and fan-friendly approach to the game.

Bill Veeck, nicknamed “the Barnum of Baseball,” introduced the exploding scoreboard to the old Comiskey Park in 1960 when no other major league team had fireworks at the ballpark.

Mike Veeck was promotions director for the White Sox in 1979 when he teamed up with radio deejay Steve Dahl for Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979, which filled old Comiskey Park with disco haters but turned into a riot.

Mike Veeck referred to Disco Demolition Night more than once on Monday, suggesting that he could do “a mass apology” upon his return to the Chicago market.

The fateful promotion has become part of cultural history, but the arrival of Bill Murray with the Veecks as owners of the Joliet team has been on the top of most people’s minds.

“All of Joliet is talking,” council member Sherri Reardon told the Veecks as the council’s Stadium Committee gave preliminary approval for the new ownership.

Mike Veeck and Bill Murray have been involved in ownership of a number of minor league teams.

They sold the St. Paul Saints in the past year.

Mike Veeck said he’s been an owner or had some other front office role with 18 baseball teams in the minors and major leagues.

“I’ve been fired by four major league teams,” he said in introducing himself to the Stadium Committee. “Those are like my real credentials.”

The committee was receptive to the joke and welcomed the Veecks to Joliet.

Semaca, who has been an owner of the Slammers for the past 11 years, said the new ownership group will allow the team to rise to another level.

No one made clear exactly what that may be, but everyone seems interested.

Murray was not at City Hall on Monday, but Mike Veeck said his partner will be at Slammers games.

“Bill attends,” Veeck told the committee. “He is not an absentee.”