Baseball: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

By Edward J. Rielly | Go to book overview
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Eddie Gaedel—all of 43 inches tall in his stocking feet—made history on August 19, 1951, when he pinch-hit for St. Louis Browns outfielder Frank Saucier against the Detroit Tigers. He was hired by Browns owner Bill Veeck as a gimmick to generate interest in the woeful team— an insensitive move that probably would not be tolerated today. Gaedel faced pitcher Bob Cain, who walked him on four straight pitches.

The stratagem may have been a crowd-pleaser, but home plate umpire Ed Hurley was not amused, refusing to let Gaedel bat until he had seen the player’s contract. Two days later, the commissioner’s office ruled that henceforth all player contracts must be approved by that office. Gaedel’s brief playing stint earned him fame but little financial gain or long-term happiness. He appeared on TV shows hosted by Ed Sullivan and Bing Crosby, worked as a Buster Brown shoe pitchman, and performed with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Veeck briefly hired Gaedel again in 1961, along with seven other midgets, to serve food after customers had complained of vendors blocking their view of White Sox games. Within two months, Gaedel was dead. On June 18, he was mugged on a Chicago street for $11. He struggled home but died of a heart attack. Only one baseball person attended his funeral—Bob Cain, the pitcher who had faced him back in 1951. Later, someone posing as a Hall of Fame representative conned Gaedel’s mother out of his Browns uniform and bats.

See also: Veeck, William L., Jr.

Additional Reading:

Veeck, Bill, with Ed Linn. VeeckAs in Wreck:
The Autobiography of Bill Veeck.
New York:
Putnam’s, 1962.

Zoss, Joel, and John Bowman. Diamonds in
the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball.

1989. Reprint, Chicago: Contemporary
Books, 1996.


Gambling, especially betting on ball games, has long been the mortal sin of baseball. Although the deliberate loss of the 1919 World Series by the White Sox in return for money from gamblers (much of which never materialized) shocked the


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