Last night, at Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals gave away, as a promotional item, a bobblehead depicting former St. Louis Browns player Eddie Gaedel.
The highest wRC+ in MLB history among players with 40 or more plate appearances belongs to Babe Ruth, with a 197 wRC+. Not a huge surprise here; if he weren’t at or very near the top of the leaderboard, it would be difficult to give much credibility to the statistic. Eddie Gaedel had a career wRC+ of 338.
Of course, he didn’t even come close to reach 40 plate appearances. He had one, a four-pitch walk issued by Detroit Tigers pitcher (and future St. Louis Brown) Bob Cain. I suppose one could give some passing credit to Gaedel for his plate discipline, but the truth is that Cain did not even come close to throwing a strike. It did not help that Eddie Gaedel was 3’7”.
Gaedel was easily the shortest player in Major League history. And the place that Gaedel holds in MLB lore is so grand that last night, a franchise other than the one for which Gaedel wore a uniform gave away bobbleheads depicting him.
Usually, the Gaedel story is passed along as a quirky bit of baseball fun. But there are some rather disturbing bits to his story that get far less attention. And perhaps they should.
- The most obvious one is that Eddie Gaedel was not promoted as a clever circumvention of the rules which enabled the team to gain what was essentially a free base—he was a sideshow. Gaedel appeared in the second game of a doubleheader, but between the two games, he also made an appearance jumping out of a papier-mache birthday cake to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the American League. Gaedel’s signing was specifically an attempt to draw attention, and it was done in an intentionally covert manner—owner Bill Veeck intentionally withheld paperwork with the league offices so that the signing would not be scrutinized.
- Much is made of Gaedel’s uniform, such as how the uniform was passed down in the DeWitt family for generations before somebody realized that it might have some historic value. My concern is less this and more that...he wore the uniform number “1/8”. You get it? Because he was really small! Isn’t that clever? Isn’t that funny? But really though, would the visual effect of a 3’7”, 65 pound man standing at the plate in a Major League Baseball game not have been felt if he had been afforded the dignity of wearing a whole number like every other player in history?
- This anecdote, from the esteemed bastion of utterly correct information Wikipedia, which I will quote word for word, which seems...extreme:
- You probably don’t know much about Eddie Gaedel’s life beyond that day in 1951 in which he had his lone plate appearance. In 1961, he was beaten to death in his hometown of Chicago under mysterious and tragic circumstances. And after his horrifying death, at the far-too-young age of 36, only one person associated with Major League Baseball attended his funeral: Bob Cain. Cain, who never actually met Gaedel aside from their single matchup in the big leagues, said that he felt a sense of obligation to attend, a sense not shared by Bill Veeck, Ford Frick, or any of the other MLB figures that profited so much from Gaedel’s presence.
To be clear, I do find the Eddie Gaedel story interesting. It was a unique moment, and for as much as Gaedel seems to have been exploited, he certainly had an awareness of what was going on, and he was able to make some money off of it. I only wish the story could be told honestly and comprehensively.
Okay, that’s it for the Saturday edition of News and Notes Wokeness. Here’s the links from yesterday.
I wrote about the Cardinals’ usage of Seung Hwan Oh in three-run save situations, given consideration of the volatile 2016 Cardinals bullpen.
Lil Scooter posted a bunch of links of Cardinals home runs this year. Cardinals home runs are good and I like them.
The Cardinals played the Milwaukee Brewers after an unfortunate/pretty terrible Thursday night game, but Friday was another day and it went better. Mister_manager recapped the 4-3 win.
Have a wonderful day, everybody.