Former baseball owner Bill Veeck's condition was upgraded from serious to good yesterday at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago, where he is suffering from a respiratory ailment.

Veeck, 71, entered the hospital Sunday for surgery to remove a lung tumor, but began having trouble breathing Tuesday night, a spokeswoman said.

The surgery, set for Wednesday, has been put off. Veeck was in intensive care but was alert, his wife, Mary Frances, said.

"We are very optimistic about the tumor because when he went into the hospital three months ago with a broken hip, he had X-rays and there was nothing showing," his wife said.

Veeck, a heavy cigarette smoker who lost a leg as a Marine in World War II, began his career as a vendor with the Chicago Cubs. He was an official of the club, then went on to operate the St. Louis Browns, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox (twice).

Since selling the White Sox four years ago, Veeck regularly attended Cubs games at Wrigley Field, sitting in the bleachers in a straw hat, shorts and shoes . . .

Frank Howard, former manager of the San Diego Padres, has been named batting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. For the Brewers under new Manager George Bamberger, the only returning coach will be Larry Haney in the bullpen. Andy Etchebarren was named first base coach, Tony Muser third base coach and Herman Starrete pitching coach.