Professional-in-residence featured in a Netflix movie about baseball’s Mike Veeck

September 19, 2023

Headshot of Dave Stevens

In 1996, Dave Stevens, a professional in residence in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac, made professional sports history, signing a three-week baseball contract with the independent St. Paul Saints.

In one at-bat he pinch-hit for legendary New York Mets slugger Darryl Strawberry.

“I was signed as a catcher and was on the team with Jack Morris and Darryl Strawberry and a bunch of former big leaguers trying to get back to the majors,” said Stevens, who was born without hips and legs. “Darryl had hit three home runs. He went to the manager and said, 'Let Dave hit.’ I wasn’t even supposed to play that day.”

Stevens, a Bristol resident and seven-time Emmy winner who has worked for ESPN, is part of the upcoming Netflix movie, “The Saint of Second Chances.” The movie, which uses actors as well as real interviews, began airing on September 19. It is the story of former Saints’ owner Mike Veeck and his five decades in baseball.

Stevens’ relationship with Strawberry and his time with the St. Paul Saints plays a prominent role in the film.

“My dream was to play professional baseball and thanks to Mike Veeck that came true,” Stevens says, to which Strawberry adds, “St. Paul brought me back to life.”

Veeck described Stevens as “a fierce competitor” and said he signed him to play baseball because “I just wanted to show people what was possible.”

According to the Netflix synopsis, “Veeck grew up in the shadow of his hustler father, Hall of Fame baseball owner Bill Veeck. The Veeck name became both legendary and notorious in professional baseball as they introduced the fun at ballparks — giveaways, theme nights, fireworks and more. But it all came to a screeching halt when Mike blew up his father's career. Exiled from the game he loved, the younger Veeck spent the next few decades clawing his way up from rock bottom, determined to redeem himself. After receiving distressing news, what started as a journey to reclaim the family legacy became an opportunity to appreciate that family more fully.”

Mike Veeck blowing up his father’s career refers to Disco Demolition Night, a promotion on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The event, the brainchild of Mike Veeck and a local shock jock, resulted in a riot, considerable damage to the field and the cancellation of a game between the Veecks’ White Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Veeck later found redemption in baseball with the St. Paul Saints. Stevens said he knew about the Veecks long before playing for the Saints. He was aware that Bill Veeck had used 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel as a pinch hitter in a major league game in 1951.

“I always grew up thinking I wanted to make that right because I was a player and I didn’t want to be a gimmick,” said Stevens, who played three sports in high school and at Augsburg College. “It was ironic that his son would allow me to play professional baseball and make history. It’s pretty wild.”

Stevens said he has stayed in touch with Strawberry and Mike Veeck over the years. He has been invited to three movie premieres but has been unable to attend. He hopes to have Mike Veeck and the movie’s director on his podcast at Quinnipiac, where he directs the Ability Media program.

Created by Quinnipiac’s School of Communications and Stevens, Ability Media educates the public with stories about the unique skills and potential people with disabilities offer, beginning with the media industry, where less than 2% of the film and TV workforce is disabled.

“Being part of the movie is pretty cool,” Stevens said. “Hopefully it will spark interest in what we’re doing with Ability Media at Quinnipiac.”

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