Eddie Gaedel (right) in his only plate appearance.
In 1951, St. Louis owner and showman Bill Veeck sent 3’7” midget Eddie Gaedell in as a pinch hitter for the Browns’ leadoff batter in the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers.
With Bob Cain on the mound – laughing at the absurdity that he actually had to pitch to Gaedel[l] – 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.
Veeck had hoped that Delsing would go on to score in a one-run Browns victory, but he ended up stranded at third base and the Tigers went on to win the game 6–2. American League president Will Harridge, saying Veeck was making a mockery of the game, voided Gaedel’s contract the next day. In response, Veeck threatened to request an official ruling on whether Yankees shortstop and reigning MVP Phil Rizzuto was a short ballplayer or a tall midget.
Initially, major league baseball struck Gaedel from its record book, as if he had not been in the game. He was relisted a year later, as a right-handed batter and left-handed thrower (although he did not play the field). Eddie Gaedel finished his major league career with an on-base percentage of 1.000. His total earnings as a pro athlete were $100, the scale price for an AGVA appearance. However, he was able to parlay his baseball fame into more than $17,000 by appearing on several television shows.
His jersey, bearing the uniform number “1⁄8”, is displayed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.