The Eddie Gaedel incident
AUGUST 19, 1951
A midget got to bat on this date in baseball history, and guess what? He walked. It was the famous, or infamous, depending on your outlook, marketing gimmick of that great baseball promoter Bill Veeck.
Veeck owned the old St. Louis Browns (who later moved to
Baltimore and became the Orioles) at the time, and needed to boost sagging attendance. He would only say that he planned a surprise between games of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.
It didn’t seem like such a big deal when a huge cake was rolled out, out of it coming 3-foot 7-inch, 65 lb. Edward Carl “Eddie” Gaedel with number “1/8” on his back. Veeck’s real surprise, however, was having Eddie Gaedel pinch hit for the leadoff hitter, which took everyone off guard.
Veeck knew he’d get some resistance from the umpires, but he was ready. He had Gaedel sign a major league contract two days earlier. Veeck sent it to the Commissioner’s office on Friday, knowing it wouldn’t be looked at until Monday. Browns manager Zack Taylor had a copy of the contract in his pocket in the event home plate umpire Ed Hurley wanted proof Gaedel was a major leaguer. Hurley did.
Taylor showed him the contract and Gaedel stepped into the batter’s box.
The pitcher tried to find his strike zone. Gaedel walked on four pitches. He took a couple bows as he headed to first base, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The baseball establishment wasn’t crazy about the stunt. The rules were soon changed forbidding anyone from appearing in a major league game until after the Commissioner approves a contract.
Ironically, because walks don’t count as official times at bat, according to the statistics, Eddie Gaedel never batted.