A celebration of the 65th anniversary of the pinch-hitting appearance by 3-foot, 7-inch dwarf Eddie Gaedel with the St. Louis Browns will begin at 7 p.m. Friday in Toluca Lake.
The celebration at Timmy Nolan’s Tavern & Grill, 10111 Riverside Drive, will include a raffle, a $2 Eddie Gaedel trivia contest and the displaying of Gaedel’s athletic supporter, according to Jon Leonoudakis, president of the Los Angeles Chapter of Eddie Gaedel Society, which is organizing the event along with the Baseball Reliquary.
Ryan Steven Green, director of the new documentary film “The Hollywood Shorties,” will appear with several of the Shorties.
The Shorties baseball team was formed in 1949 by actors Billy Barty and Jerry Maren, who played a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz,” and consisted of dwarfs, many who worked in the entertainment industry. It played baseball and softball exhibitions into the 1980s.
The Shorties also fielded a Harlem Globetrotters-like basketball team that mixed comedy and athletic prowess. It played against the Laker Girls dancers at halftimes of Laker games at the Forum in the 1980s.
Gaedel’s pinch-hitting appearance on Aug. 19, 1951, at St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park was the brainchild of Browns owner Bill Veeck, a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, who was always seeking ways to boost interest in the team with the lowest attendance in the American League.
There was no advance publicity for Gaedel’s appearance. The Browns did promote the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American League held between games of the doubleheader. The team drew a crowd announced at 18,369, its largest of the season.
Gaedel jumped out of a 7-foot birthday cake during the celebration.
In the bottom of the first inning of the second game of the doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, Browns manager Zach Taylor signaled for a pinch hitter for leadoff hitter Frank Saucier and the 26-year-old Gaedel strode to the plate, wearing a uniform with the number 1/8 that regularly belonged to 9- year-old batboy Bill DeWitt Jr., now the principal owner of the St. Louis Cardinals.
According to an account prepared by the Society for American Baseball Research, home plate umpire Ed Hurley yelled “What the hell?” Taylor presented Gaedel’s contract to Taylor, who after some confusion, called for a pitch.
Because of Gaedel’s small strike zone, Tigers pitcher Bob Cain didn’t come close to throwing a strike. Gaedel walked on four pitches, took his base and Jim Delsing, the father of professional golfer Jay Delsing, pinch-ran for him.
American League President Will Harridge voided Gaedel’s contract two days later, citing the “best interests of baseball.”
Gaedel died in 1961 at the age of 36, the victim of a beating in his native Chicago.
The Monrovia-based Baseball Reliquary, founded in 1997, bills itself as a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture though the context of baseball history and exploring the sport’s unparalleled creative possibilities.
—City News Service
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