Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Gaedel’

Short Pants and Short Players

October 14, 2014
Hunter Pence San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence
San Francisco Giants

Short Pants

Many of you already know how much I hate the fact that baseball players today, and some since Ted Williams, prefer to wear their uniform pants all the way down around the ankles. All those “Bagwellians” (my term for them) who do so are out of line with the intent, spirit, and design of baseball uniforms by their effective burial, in many cases, of unique uniform sock design. (See the socks of the St. Louis Cardinals whenever possible for a good example of this judgment. Just as good – bu with less heritage behind them – the bright orange socks of the new Houston Astros game wardrobe.

The reason we bring this up this morning is because of our attention to Giants right fielder in the current NLCS competition. Hunter has been one of our favorites for honoring the spirit of the uniform socks since his days in Houston as an Astro – and  for a surplus of reasons that include the fact he’s tall – and tall guys, like Ted Williams, often behave as though they think that too much sock exposure makes them look silly. Pence seems to understand that the sight of uniform socks do not make a tall man silly – that only the man can make himself look silly in uniform by his inexplicably goofy way of throwing a baseball or expressing an opinion. Hunter Pence seems to validate that point almost every time he takes the field. And no matter what he has done, until now, it has seemed OK by me.

Even now, I may be blowing a new concern out of proportion because I’ve only seen what I hope is a mere apparition in Hunter Pence’s new uniform style in the current Giants-Cardinals series and that’s this: When Hunter Pence now stands in to hit against the Cardinals, he seems to have moved his pants up on both legs from – just below the knees – to just above the knees!!!

Hunter! – If that’s what you are doing, you’ve gone too far! Wearing the lower elasticized hem of your uniform pants just above the knees was never the intent of their uniform design!

Please, readers, pay sharp attention to how Pence wears his pants today in the game at San Francisco and let us know what you think! – Is he or isn’t he – now wearing them above the knees?

If he is (wearing is pants too high), he’s found another way to pass himself off as one of baseball’s silliest, quirkiest, sufficiently talented, and most likeable players in the big leagues!

Of course, I could be wrong. In one of those minor ironies of everyday life, I’m going in for my annual eye exam in about one hour from this keyboard sizzler topic.

Happy Tuesday, everybody. – I’ll be “seeing” you!

Eddie Gaedel Sportsman's Park August 19, 1951

Eddie Gaedel
Sportsman’s Park
August 19, 1951

Short Players

Back in early September, yours truly was duly honored by the Eddie Gaedel Society, Spokane Chapter No. 1, as their first draft choice for membership into the organization dedicated to the honorable memory of MLB’s most vertically challenged player in history, Eddie Gaedel of the St. Louis Browns. As most of you, or all of you, probably already know, Gaedel was the midget player that club owner Bill Veeck sent to the plate on August 19, 1951 to face Bob Cain of the Detroit Tigers as a pinch hitter for the lead off batter at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Gaedel drew a four-pitch walk and then retired forever.

A column on Eddie Gaedel that I wrote here for The Pecan Park Eagle some time ago came to the attention of the Gaedel Society’s president, Tom Keefe, who also liked the song  parody I had written back in 1999 to commemorate the bravest little man in the history of the game. It is repeated here, with a couple of minor editorial improvements for descriptive performance sake:

The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel

(Sung to the melody and chorus tunes of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”)

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 August 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!

 

Hail, Eddie!

 

In short form, President Keefe liked the “Ballad of Eddie Gaedel” enough to hopefully adopt it as the organization’s anthem. The Gaedel Society plans to so sing it as a whole group chorus group number at their annual meeting in Spokane, Washington at O’Dougherty’s Irish Pub next summer. I’ve been told that the song sounds even better after both the singers and the audience have downed a few beers.

At any rate, I’ve now received my membership card and official society tee shirt and am looking forward to helping commemorate Gaedel as the most unique of all the former old St. Louis Browns.

Yesterday, I was also pleased to learn from President Keefe that St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Dewitt, whose family was involved with the Browns during the Gaedel game, has also accepted his own invitation into the society as a second “out of Spokane’ member. We could be building a forceful wave for the memory of Eddie Gaedel on every beach and shore wherever baseball is played.

 

 

 

1951: Veeck Inserts Midget Pinch-Hitter

May 14, 2014

 

Eddie Gaedel Sportsmans Park August 19, 1951

Eddie Gaedel
Sportsmans Park
August 19, 1951

__________________________________________________

August 20, 1951 News Article

Veeck Inserts Midget Pinch-Hitter

18,369 Brownie Fans Treated to Gigantic Celebration

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 19 (1951) – (UP). Bill Veeck pulled out every trick in his favorite assortment today – including a midget-sized pinch hitter – to treat 18,369, (the) largest crowd at Sportsmans Park since 1947, to a wild celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American League.

In between games of today’s Browns-Tigers doubleheader, the new Browns owner reached a peak in his campaign to give Brownie fans “a lot of fun” even if they haven’t a good team, yet,

The celebration started with serial bombs exploding, and an eight-piece band, composed of Brownie players, tooting away at home plate.

Meanwhile, a hand-balancer performed at first base, trampoline acrobats jumped nimby around second, and a juggler went through his act at third.

But that wasn’t all. Old-fashioned cars and cycles paraded around the field and coach Max Patkin, an accomplished comedian and contortionist, staged a jitterbug dance.

Then a huge birthday cake was trundled onto the field as the band played “Happy Birthday.”  The midget jumped out of the cake and was introduced to the throng as “the last of the ral Brownies.” The midget, bearing the fraction “1/8” on his Brownie uniform was Eddie Gaedel, 28, of Chicago. Manager Zach Taylor promptly sent hm to home plate as the (pinch-hitting for center fielder Frank Saucier) lead-off man for the second game against the Tigers. Gaedel weighs 50 1/8 pounds.

The Tigers protested but Taylor came up with a perfectly legal contract showing Gaedel to be a full-fledged member of the Browns. The Browns were four men under the player limit and Gaedel had taken one of the vacant spots.

The umpires decided everything was official and ordered Detroit Pitcher Bob Cain to play ball. Cain couldn’t find the midget-sized strike zone and promptly walked Gaedel on four pitches. A pinch runner (Jim Delsing) went in to take his place.

The Browns eventually loaded the bases, but failed to score.

It was a great day. But it would have been even better if the Browns hadn’t lost both games, 5-2 and 6-2.

But Veeck wasn’t downhearted. He’s going to use one of those player vacancies still left to hire a “grandstand manager”  from among the fans.

The grandstand manager will handle decisions that Veeck doesn’t like to handle himself.

~ United Press, Independent Long Beach, August 20, 1951, Page 18.

__________________________________________________

 

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 Smile, Everybody!” – Eddie Gaedel.

 

Eddie Gaedel Lucky He Never Faced Satchel Paige

October 16, 2011

August 19, 1951: Vertically challenged Eddie Gaedel came to bat as a pinch hitter for Frank Saucier of the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman's Park, St. Louis, and drew a four-pitch walk from pitcher Bob Cain of the Detroit Tigers. He was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Jim Delsing and retired from his one-at bat career with an all-time OBP of 1.000.

The great Satchel Paige and the little unknown midget named Eddie Gaedel were teammates for one day on the 1951 St. Louis Browns. Neither man, especially Gaedel, would likely have been there at all, had it not been for club owner Bill Veeck and his PT Barnum level commitment to boosting the anemic gate attraction that was the drubbing wagon that the Browns had become in American League history through this time. By 1951, as a matter of fact, the wobbly wheels of that creaking old boneyard cart were only two years away from falling off forever and the remaining riders taking flight east as orange-breasted Orioles.

Still, the great ones never forget, even if they fail to show up or stay awake for the most secretive off-the-wall stunt ever pulled off in baseball history. For a man who wanted to goose the gate, Bill Veeck had done everything he could to keep the use of his little midget in an actual game a secret until it happened. As much as he might have preferred a big advance ballyhoo that could have attracted a larger crowd, Veeck also knew that too much advance publicity might result in either the Commissioner or the American League coming down to halt the plan before it ever happened.

Veeck settled for the element of surprise – and the hope that it would spawn a new awareness among St. Louis fans, one that would promote the idea that “I had better go see a few Browns games; there’s no telling what I am liable to miss seeing if I don’t go.”

Veeck thought of everything. He had even gotten Gaedel to sign an AL approved player’s contract prior to the day of the game in anticipation of the umpire challenge that was sure to come, which it did, but a presentation of the written document ruled over all short-term arguments by the Tigers when the Browns sent up Eddie Gaedel as a pinch hitter for lead off man Frank Saucier in the bottom of the first inning.

Once play began, the Tiger battery, pitcher Bob Cain and catcher Bob Swift, pretty much handled Gaedel as though they were facing a child by throwing his lob pitches that they hoped would move through the strike zone as such – or an easy to field come-backers to the infield. But Gaedel was no child – and he was batting under mock death threat (we think) from Bill Veeck not to swing at anything. Veeck had actually told Gaedel that he planned to watch his performance with rifle in hand from atop the stadium roof. Veeck had made it clear that he planned to shoot Gaedel if he dared swing at anything.

Eddie Gaedel did not swing at all. He walked his way into baseball history on four pitches and then departed for a pinch runner. Within hours of his triumph, his contract to play baseball was rescinded as a sham, but I’m not really sure how prejudicial the aborting language was against all the vertically challenged people in this world. I just know that he had played his one and only hand into baseball history.

But as we said earlier, the great ones never forget. And Satchel Paige was indeed one of the great ones.

Years later, as reported on page 721 of “Satchel” by Larry Tye, Satchel Paige was engaged in one of his many barnstorming trips to Canada and was pitching in a small town called Kindersley in western Saskatchewan. It was one of those days in which Paige still felt like going a full nine innings, but something happened in the seventh inning that was purely designed to bother Satchel. The manager of the local club opposition put a four-year old boy who stood only three feet tall into the lineup as a pinch hitter.

Hey! At three feet in height, the Canadian kid was a full one foot shorter than Eddie Gaedel.

“Everyone thought that Satch would lob the ball, or perhaps walk him,” remembers Bob Joyce, who was calling the balls and strikes that day. “But he threw three perfect fastballs, knee high, and I had to call the kid out. Imagine the strike zone at 60 feet, 6 inches.”

And while we’re at it, let’s recall all those stories about Satchel Paige’s ability to hit the middle of a gum wrapper paper when he needed a strike. In that kind of situation, there was no way that the great Satchel Paige was going to Eddie Gaedel this little kid to first as a free base runner.

Maybe Satchel wasn’t even at Sportsman’s Park on the day of Eddie Gaedel’s famous plate appearance of August 19, 1951. In fact, I’d like to think he wasn’t. I’d prefer to think that the real Satchel Paige would have mowed down the little kid years later up in Canada, no matter what. Anybody who steps in to hit in the game of baseball should be ready to take on all the consequences of that decision – or said person shouldn’t even be there in the first place.

Gaedel Redux Implodes

December 9, 2010

AUGUST 19, 1951, EDDIE GAEDEL BATS; ONCE WAS ENOUGH.

A while back, I wrote a column on Eddie Gaedel, the only midget or dwarf to ever bat in the big leagues. The link to that WordPress piece is:

https://thepecanparkeagle.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/the-ballad-of-eddie-gaedel-2/

Well, it seems this past summer it happened again. Sort of. Some folks up in Missouri ran out of fresh ideas and decided to commemorate Gaedel’s iconic moment by sending a 16-year old dwarf to bat for the Ricer City Rascals in an independent league professional game played in O’Fallon, Missouri against the Oakland County Cruisers.

You can check out the original story, plus pictures, that both cover this event by linking on to the St. Louis Browns Blog Spot and checking out the story as it was reported by St. Louis Browns Fan Club President and Editor in Chief, Bill Rogers. Just scroll down to August 20, 2010 and select the story entitled:

River City Rascals Salute St. Louis Browns Historical Society & Eddie Gaedel Anniversary

The St. Louis Browns BlogSpot link is http://thestlbrowns.blogspot.com

Your visit t0 the site also will be a fine opportunity to check out some of the other historic stories that Bill Rogers and Company have assembled about the old Browns, the same Browns that left St. Louis fifty-six years ago in 1954 to become the Baltimore Orioles. One of the stories even includes the language of haste we know as “breaking news.” You’ve got to believe, at first,  that any news that could be breaking over a half century beyond the funeral of the club must have been keeping in a freezer somewhere. Just read it and come to grips with the fact that even urgency is locked into the perception of the beholder. I’m sure there must be at least one centenarian remaining alive in Boston for whom the news of Babe Ruth’s sale to the New York Yankees still strikes sharply to the quick point of pain.

At any rate, for $25.00 a year, membership in the St. Louis Browns Fan Club is one of the best hidden values in baseball. Give it a look and some thought.

Meanwhile, the abortive attempt to recreate the Eddie Gaedel experience failed in troubled River City. Nick Hagan played the part, and the club even replicated all the moves that the Browns took back in 1951, right down to bringing Hagan out in a cake-shaped container prior to the game.

When the Rascals then came in to take their first at bats in the bottom of the first, “Gaedel” was then announced as the pinch hitter for the first man due up. Here’s where the script changes.

This “Gaedel” (Hagan) was about four inches taller than the original. He also took only four pitches, as did the iconic midget, but three of those were called strikes. Historic justice prevailed. Nick Hagan had to take the long walk back to the dugout as a strikeout victim. He would not tie Gaedel’s career On Base Percentage (OBP) of 1.000 and waltz airily away into the record books with a perfect stat record of his brief achievement.

Terrific. That’s what the folks in River City get for being short on new ideas. Had it worked, we might have been forced to hear about annual walks to vertically challenged batters in the boondock leagues of this country – and maybe even bracing ourselves for the reintroduction of some other far-from-original ideas. How about building a new domed stadium with a roof that cannot be opened, but one that will work as a cookie-cutter venue for sports of all kinds? How about starting a newspaper, one that comes with a sports section and plenty of sports writers?

Cold Case: Who Killed Eddie Gaedel?

April 25, 2010

August 19, 1951: St. Louis Browns Manager Zack Taylor Ties Eddie Gaedel's Right Baseball Shoe..

The story of Eddie Gaedel’s one-time at bat as the only midget pinch hitter in big league history back on August 19, 1951 is one of baseball’s biggest travelers. We talked about it here yesterday.

A much less popular subject is the death of Eddie Gaedel nearly ten years later on June 18, 1961 in Chicago. Eddie’s mom found him dead in bed in his apartment on that date. He had a bruise and cuts near his left eye and bruises and cuts on his knees. The coroner’s report concluded that Eddie had died of a heart attack, probably caused by the trauma of physical assault upon his body in physical combat with an unknown other or others. The only fact ascertained by the police in their brief look at the case was that Eddie Gaedel may have gone to a nearby bowling alley the previous evening where he may have had too much to drink and may have either gotten into an argument at the alley or encountered an assailant on his walk home. From what I can tell, there was no real evaluation performed on Eddie’s blood contents in the sketchy post-mortem that followed. Almost everything about his death had been concluded by the Chicago police from Eddie Gaedel’s reputation as a heavy drinker and combative personality.

Since money was missing, the CPD concluded that Eddie Gaedel had been attacked and robbed, but that he was able to make it home before collapsing and dying. The “evidence” of missing money is not spelled out as a missing wallet, nor do the CPD reports jump out and say how they knew how much cash Eddie had on him in the first place.

Because of his “reputation,” the Chicago Police Department declined to investigate the death of Eddie Gaedel any further.

What? …. What?

Since when is “reputation” grounds for letting someone go off to eternity without justice while some other guilty person gets off Scott-Free of murder? Eddie Gaedel died 49 years ago this summer. It’s wholly conceivable that his murderer is still out there in the bleachers during a White Sox or Cubs games in 2010. He or she wouldn’t be particularly conscious by this late time in life, but how alert do you need to be to keep going to baseball games as a Chicago fan on either side of town in 2010?

The point here is simple: Someone got away with murder in the Case of Eddie Gaedel and that’s too bad.