Circus Baseball

On August 18th, 1951, the St. Louis Browns (a dismal baseball team which later became the Baltimore Orioles) played a memorable doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman's Park.

Joining in the American League's 50th birthday celebrations (and the 50th anniversary of the Falstaff Brewing Company, the Browns' radio sponsor), Browns owner Bill Veeck surprised fans by putting a clown on the field, persuading Satchel Paige to play the drums in a jazz quartet, and paying a 26-year-old 3'7" 65-lb midget to jump out of a seven-foot birthday cake wearing a miniature Browns uniform and slippers turned up at the ends like an elf's.

In the bottom of the first inning of the second game, fans were surprised again -- this time by the announcement of the midget as "Number One-Eighth, Eddie Gaedel, batting for

[Frank] Saucier": Browns manager Zach Taylor was sending Gaedel to the plate to pinch hit! Detroit skipper Red Rolfe immediately protested, but Taylor produced a legitimate contract, filed with the American League and cleared by umpire Ed Hurley.

The result? Gaedel, with a strike zone measuring 1-1/2 inches, drew a walk (on four pitches) from an amused Bob Cain, ran to first base, was relieved by pinch-runner Jim Delsing, received a standing ovation, and promptly retired; his brief Major League career was over. Why did Gaedel not swing his toy-like bat? Veeck had instructed him to crouch low and warned him not to -- explaining for good measure that a high-powered rifle would be trained upon him from the stands!

[Epilogue: The Browns lost the game 6-2 despite Gaedel's contribution. He was paid $100 for his appearance (and was insured for $1 million by Veeck). Two days later Gaedel was banned from appearing in any more games. American League president Will Harridge was furious and unsuccessfully tried to strike Gaedel's name from the record books... Mike Veeck (Bill's son) recalled that legendary manager John McGraw, a family friend, would often visit and swap stories: "McGraw had a little hunchback he kept around the club as a sort of a good-luck charm. He wasn't a midget, but was sort of a gnome. By the time McGraw got to the stub of his last cigar, he would always swear to my father that one day before he retired he was going to send his gnome up to bat."]

[On September 18th, 1905, a midget actor named Jerry D. Sullivan played in an Eastern League game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Buffalo Bisons. Sullivan, who happened to be staying in the same hotel as the Bisons, was recruited to pinch-hit for the team. The result? Sullivan hit a single over the third baseman and reached first safely. Orioles pitcher Fred Burchell tried to pick him off, but first baseman Tim Jordan "couldn't find him"! Sullivan eventually scored a run -- and promptly returned to his day job as an actor.]

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