Who Do You Wish You’d Seen Play Baseball?

This morning, Geoff Young over at Ducksnorts, posed the baseball question, “Who Do You Wish You’d Seen Play?” Immediately, Mickey Mantle came to mind…he is my all-time favorite player. Then I gave it a little more thought, I’ve seen video of Mickey Mantle, his career was well documented and even though I’d love to have seen him… I really wish I’d have seen Josh Gibson play. If you don’t know who he is… look him up, a player from the Negro Leagues that some consider the best to ever play the game. But that’s a blog for another time. The question got me thinking a little more… you know what I really wished I’d seen? The second game of a double header between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers on August 19, 1951. True baseball history junkies will know what I’m talking about… others are confused. To you others, please allow me to introduce you to Eddie Gaedel.

1951 was an important year for baseball… it was Willie Mays’ and Mickey Mantle’s rookie year, and Joe DiMaggio’s final year. Yet, maybe the most memorable moment was a publicity stunt by Bill Veeck, the Browns’ owner, when he marched up to the plate a 3 foot 7 inch 26 year old named Eddie Gaedel. He wore the number “1/8” on his jersey. He drew a walk on four straight pitches, and slowly jogged down to first base, stopping twice to bow to the crowd and tip his cap. Dude was a rockstar for one at-bat. That would be his last at-bat. There have been endless stories and accounts of this event. I won’t try to get into all the details but I will link up a few sites that can offer some great insight. Eddie Gaedel became a cult hero of sorts in certain circles and his legend grows to the this day. Here are a few tributes paid to Eddie.

This was done by the Birrer Art Studios, carved out of wood.

This is, no joke, the jockstrap he wore during his at bat. Looks like he had the runs. Unreal that somebody has this… but The Baseball Reliquary does.

Here is Eddie Gaedel’s jersey display in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Eddie Gaedel. The last one is, of course, a fake. As a baseball card fanatic, I love that White Sox Cards created a 1951 Bowman Eddie Gaedel card. He totally deserved a card. I put it up next to some originals so you can see how awesome this remake is.

Look at those three tiny little bats that he’s swinging in the on deck circle. So funny.

Like a lot of fans of baseball’s history, I knew about Eddie Gaedel, but I didn’t know about the sad ending to his story. After being made fun of his entire life for his size, poor guy took to drinking pretty heavily. Apparently, he’d pick fights too…an angry drunk. Well, he got lit one night and took it a little too far, 10 years after his publicity stunt, he got followed home by some dudes he got in argument with. They beat the crap out of him and left the little guy for dead. Some say it was a heart attack that caused the death after the beating. We’ll never know for sure. About a decade ago, on the 50th anniversary of his plate appearance in Major League Baseball, Bob Ley for ESPN did an “Outside the Lines” report on Gaedel. Here is a copy of the transcript. It is a fascinating read that fills in the blanks of Eddie’s life.

Just clowning around with the big boys for a day. I would’ve loved to have been there for Eddie’s moment in the spotlight. Just hamming it up down the first base line, taking bows left and right. I love it, Eddie. May your legend grow as the years pass.


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