On this day 63 years ago, the 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel stepped up to the plate
Bill Veeck will go down in history as the greatest of baseball's promotional kings. Highlights of his career included scheduling morning games for night-shift workers, giving away live chickens, pigs and horses and even holding Grandstand Manager's Day -- when fans would hold up cards saying "YES" or "NO" to decide things like pitching changes, sacrifice bunts, or stolen bases.
But his most famous stunt was hiring the 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel for a doubleheader that the St. Louis Browns played against the Tigers in 1951. After popping out of a cake between games, Gaedel was inserted as a pinch-hitter for Frank Saucier in the bottom of the nightcap's first inning. Wearing the No. 1/8 (though listed as No. 18 in the programs so fans wouldn't suspect anything was amiss), Gaedel came to the plate. Facing Bob Cain, he drew a walk on four pitches. When he made it down to first base, Gaedel was lifted for pinch-runner Jim Delsing.
The next day, Gaedel told Bob Feller to watch out, saying "I still got my contract. And Bill Veeck told me they would use me again." Unfortunately, that never came to pass as American League President Will Harridge voided the contract that would have paid Gaedel $100 a day ($932 today). Gaedel's greatest disappointment wasn't just the loss of money though, it was that he would never get to come to the plate with the bases loaded. Said Gaedel:
While that was the end of Gaedel's Major League career (complete with a sparkling 1.000 OBP), his newfound fame got him to the plate a few more times. In September of that year, he was brought on to hit by a Sycamore, Wis. amateur team. This time, though, the umpire didn't give Gaedel such a favorable strike zone. After two called strikes, the 26-year-old took a big cut at the final pitch -- striking out. As he left the plate, Gaedel said, "You're the worst umpire I ever want to see."