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A Brief but Very Weird Appearance for Baseball

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eddie Gaedel’s two-minute major league baseball career occurred 48 years ago today.

Gaedel was 3 feet 7. Bill Veeck, the madcap owner of the St. Louis Browns, had for some time wanted to suit up a midget and send him to home plate for an official major league at-bat.

He secretly hired a Chicago theatrical agent to find “the handsomest, best-dressed midget in America.”

Gaedel, 26, a welder, was given a boy’s uniform and issued a 17-inch bat. He was coached to maintain a wide stance and to bend into a crouch. Result: A strike zone the height of a flashlight battery.

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Not even the Browns players knew what was up when the St. Louis public address announcer told a crowd of 18,369: “Your attention please. For the Browns, batting for Frank Saucier, number one-eighth, Eddie Gaedel.”

As Gaedel walked to the plate, the crowd was at first stunned into silence. The only sound was Veeck’s laughter, from the press box.

The Detroit pitcher, Bob Cain, didn’t come close to throwing a strike. Gaedel, with the crowd cheering, trotted to first base. And the cheers grew even louder when he ran off the field, after being replaced by pinch-runner Jim Delsing.

The 65-pound Gaedel’s major league career was over. Yet it lives today, in the baseball record book, where his one-line career is shown.

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Gaedel died at 36 in 1961, after a beating by two muggers who stole $11 from him. Veeck died in 1986.

Also on this date: In 1957, the New York Giants’ board of directors voted, 8-1, to move the team to San Francisco. The Giants had been a New York team since 1883. Said club president Horace Stoneham: “I feel bad for the kids, I’ve seen lots of them at the Polo Grounds. But I haven’t seen many of their fathers lately.” . . . In 1992, Bret Boone made his major league debut with Seattle, making his the first three-generation major league family. Before him: grandfather Ray and father Bob. . . . In 1921, Ty Cobb became, at 34, the youngest major leaguer to reach 3,000 hits.


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