The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel.

Eddie Gaedel, At Bat for the Browns Against Bob Cain of the Tigers, Sportsman's Park, St. Louis, August 19, 1951. The Catcher is Bob Swift; the Umpire is Ed Hurly.

It was a one-time practical joke and publicity stunt from the ever-mischievous-making mind of Browns owner Bill Veeck, but it looms in baseball history as big or bigger than Babe Ruth calling his home run shot in the 1932 World Series because of its shock value to the usual baseball norm and the picture that resides here with this article.

Frank Saucier, 1950.

Midgets simply don’t play major league baseball, except for this one incident of contractually legal entry into a game as a first inning pinch hitter by Eddie Gaedel, batting for the Browns’ rookie leadoff man and center fielder, Frank Saucier. Many say the episode ruined Frank Saucier for major league ball. He had led the Texas League in 1950 with a .343 batting average for the playoff champion 1950 San Antonio Missions, but he was gone from baseball after the Gaedel stunt due to the ego blow he suffered deeply on that fateful day in Sportsman’s Park, August 19, 1951. No matter how Bill Veeck and the Browns explained it later to Saucier, he apparently took it personally. After a 1 for 14 times at bat experience in 18 games for the 1951 Browns, Frank Saucier left baseball for good at season’s end. That .071 final batting average for season in limited action may have helped him close the door.

At any rate, little 3’7″ Eddie Gaedel finished his one time at bat history in the big leagues with a walk to first on four pitches from Detroit Tiger pitcher Bob Cain and then trotted down to first and into the history books. Gaedel supposedly batted under threat from owner Bill Veeck: “I’ll be on the roof with a rifle. If you take one swing, I’ll shoot you dead.”

Once he reached first, Browns manager sent outfielder Jim Delsing out to pinch run. “My surprise came after I reached the bag to take over for Gaedel,” the late Delsing once told me.  “Before Gaedel left the field, he patted me on the butt and wished me luck.”

Well, the Browns went on to eventually lose this game by a score of 6-2, but they imbedded the idea of this possibility coming up again into the minds of a baseball nation. the fantasy was short-lived. Baseball quickly acted to ban midgets and dwarfs from playing big league ball. We can’t be sure how that kind of ruling would fly in the 21st century. There are a lot of people out there now looking after the rights of vertically challenged people. All we need now is for one very short Mickey Mantle type to come screaming onto the scene, demanding the restoration of opportunity. I’d be all for him or her.

In the meanwhile, I’ll close here with a little tribute parody I wrote a few years back to honor the memory of Veeck’s man back in 1951. “The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel” is sung to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and it is intended as a tribute to one of the few men in history who ever retired from baseball with a perfect one base percentage of 1.000.

The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel
(All verse stanzas are in regular shade type and are sung to the main tune of “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The two chorus stanzas, shown in bold type, are sung to the chorus tune from “Rudolph” that goes with “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, etc.”)

by Bill McCurdy, 1999.

Bill Veeck, the Brownie owner,
Wore some very shiny clothes!
And if you saw his sport shirt,
You would even say, “It glows!”

All of the other owners,
Used to laugh and call him names!
They wouldn’t let poor Bill Veeck,
Join in any owner games!

(chorus)
Then one humid summer day,
Bill Veeck had to – fidget!
Got an idea that stirred his soul,
He decided to sign a – midget!

His name was Eddie Gae-del,
He was only three feet tall!
He never played much baseball,
He was always just too small!

(chorus)
Then one day in Sportsman’s Park,
Eddie went to bat!
Took four balls and walked to first,
Then retired – just-like-that!

Oh, how the purists hated,
Adding little Eddie’s name,
To the big book of records,
“Gaedel” bore a blush of shame!

Now when you look up records,
Look up Eddie’s O.B.P.!
It reads a cool One Thousand,
Safe for all eternity.

"Have a Nice Weekend, Everybody!" - Eddie Gaedel.

4 Responses to “The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel.”

  1. tom murrah Says:

    Bill:

    Nice write-up. Several years ago, I purchased a bunch
    of post-card size photo prints from Brace Photo in Chicago.
    Since it included one of my coaches from teen-age years, Matt Batts,
    I got one which included Eddie Gaedel. It is a “on the bench”
    photo with Batts and Jim McDonald on either side of Gaedel.
    You’ve seen it perhaps, and the expression on Batts’ face
    reminds me of how highly he thought of Bill Veeck
    and his promotional efforts. Some day, we’ll have to go thru
    all the other photos of some Browns.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  2. Gaedel Redux Implodes « The Pecan Park Eagle Says:

    […] http://bill37mccurdy.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/the-ballad-of-eddie-gaedel-2/ […]

  3. Tom Keefe Says:

    I hope we can get the crowd to sing this at next year’s 5th annual meeting of the Eddie Gaedel Society, Spokane Chapter #1 at O’Doherty;s Irish Grille and Pub here in Spokane. Eddie deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tom,

      I will be most pleased and honored if your group chooses to sing the “Ballad of Eddie Gaedel” at next year’s meeting. – Go for it! – Do it! – Light up the spirit of Eddie Gaedel at O’Doherty’s. – And when you do, please do an audio-included video of the performance and send me a copy. – Who knows? – Maybe it’ll go viral on You-Tube!

      🙂

      Regards, Bill McCurdy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: