(Video) It Was 60 Years Ago Today That A Midget Played In A Maor League Game
Pardon me, a little person. But it was August 19, 1951 when legendary showman Bill Veeck pulled a fast one on the Detroit Tigers when they were facing his St. Louis Browns. Veeck secretly signed Eddie Gaedel to a contract. Gaedel stood 3 feet 7 inches tall and weighed in at 65 pounds. And when Gaedel strolled to the plate as a pinch hitter in the first inning wearing the number “1/8”, it was quite the scene.
Via Wikipedia (because I’m lazy):
Gaedel entered the second half of the doubleheader between the Browns and Detroit Tigers in the bottom of the first inning as a pinch-hitter for leadoff batter Frank Saucier. Immediately, umpire Ed Hurley called for Browns manager Zack Taylor. Veeck and Taylor had had the foresight to have a copy of Gaedel’s contract on hand, as well as a copy of the Browns’ active roster, which had room for Gaedel’s addition.
Gaedel was under strict orders not to attempt to move the bat off his shoulder. When Veeck got the impression that Gaedel might be tempted to swing at a pitch, the owner warned Gaedel that he had taken out a $1 million insurance policy on his life, and that he would be standing on the roof of the stadium with a rifle prepared to kill Gaedel if he even looked like he was going to swing. Veeck had carefully trained Gaedel to assume a tight crouch at the plate; he had measured Gaedel’s strike zone in that stance and claimed it was just one and a half inches high. However when Gaedel came to the plate, he abandoned the crouch he had been taught for a pose that Veeck described as “a fair approximation of Joe DiMaggio’s classic style,”leading Veeck to fear he was going to swing. (In the Thurber story, the midget cannot resist swinging at a 3-0 pitch, grounds out, and the team loses the game).
With Bob Cain on the mound – laughing at the absurdity that he actually had to pitch to Gaedel – and catcher Bob Swift catching on his knees, Gaedel took his stance. The Tigers catcher offered his pitcher a piece of strategy: “Keep it low.” Cain delivered four consecutive balls, all high (the first two pitches were legitimate attempts at strikes; the last two were half-speed tosses). Gaedel took his base (stopping twice during his trot to bow to the crowd) and was replaced by pinch-runner Jim Delsing. The 18,369 fans gave Gaedel a standing ovation.
Oh, the good old days. When society turned a blind eye to the exploitation of little people, as long as it was amusing. But those carefree days are no more. Oh, wait.