How Tall Is An 11 Year Old Boy In Feet The Tragic Story of Eddie Gaedel

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The Tragic Story of Eddie Gaedel

If you have been interested in baseball for a while, you surely know the story of Eddie Gaedel. For those of you who haven’t heard of him and don’t know the story, Gaedel was a midget, all three feet eight inches tall, who played one game in Major League Baseball.

Much is known about that day, August 19, 1951. The 26-year-old Gaedel entered the St. Louis Browns against the Tigers as the first batter in the second game of a doubleheader. Wearing #1/8, he walked on four straight pitches off Bob Cain. Jim Delsing grabbed him and his career ended as abruptly as it had begun.

Eddie, of course, was not a career baseball player. He appeared in the game as a promotion devised by Browns owner Bill Veeck.

Normally the story would end there. Stories about former major leaguers who only played in one game are not newsworthy, not even stories about a pint-sized player. No one bothered to find out much about Gaedel after his fifteen minutes of fame. No one could tell you about Eddie the man instead of Eddie the ball player who is forever etched in the annals of the game.

But the story of Eddie Gaedel, the man, is worth telling.

After his famous game, he was found by a baseball writer from St. Louisa Bob Broeg and started asking him questions. The first few questions were routine and Gaedel gave routine answers. Broeg then told him that he was what he always wanted to be, a former first league player. Eddie then became very proud of himself. The men shook hands and that was that.

Bob Fishel was Brown’s publicist and spent several days with Eddie before the game, the only person in baseball who had the opportunity to know him personally. “Veeck was looking for a dwarf, not a dwarf. When we saw him, there was no doubt he was right. However, I didn’t mean him” without further details.

Eddie appeared on several TV shows in the following weeks and earned $17,000, a very large amount for those days. His contract for the game was $100.

Three weeks after the game, on September 2, Eddie was arrested in Cincinnati for screaming obscenities. He tried to convince the policeman that he was a major league player. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and released on $25 bail. According to a 1971 interview with his mother, Helena, Eddie’s small size got him into trouble for much of his life.

Born in Chicago, his growth was stunted from the age of three due to thyroid disease. According to his mother, he was captured as a child. He came through high school and was a copywriter for Drover’s Daily Journal, a Chicago newspaper. He worked as a Buster Brown shoemaker appearing at store openings in Chicago and St. Louis. He also worked with the Ringling Brothers Circus in the 50s and as a promoter for Mercury Records, but refused to go with the company to California because he was afraid to get out.

In 1961, Veeck, now the owner of the White Sox, hired Gaedel and other midgets as pit vendors. That’s because fans complained that vendors were blocking their view.

However, the end was near. Eddie suffered from high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. On June 18, 1961, he was robbed on a Southside Chicago street corner for the $11 he had with him. After the robbery, he apparently staggered home and died in his bed of a heart attack as paramedics were unable to revive him. The coroner said he had bruises on his face and knees.

His mother, penniless and out of touch with her other children, was devastated. Adding insult to injury, she was scammed out of Eddie’s bats and a Browns uniform by a man claiming to represent the Hall of Fame Museum. The only remnants of the Hall of Fame are pictures of his short career with catcher Bob Swift on his knees to get a high ball.

Gaedel’s death attracted little attention. The only baseball person who attended his funeral was Bob Cain. “I never even met him, but I felt obligated to go,” said Cain, who then retired from baseball after a six-year career. “It kind of confused me that there weren’t any other baseballs out there.”

Cain summed up Eddie’s life “It was a pretty sad situation. It’s a shame he had to die the way he did, but I guess he got into a lot of trouble. He ended up with the wrong crowd.”

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