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Eddie Gaedel

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  • Eddie Gaedel

    Eddie Gaedel

    Edward Carl Gaedel was born on June 8, 1925 in Chicago. He was the second of three children born to Carl and Helen Gaedel (mother’s death certificate lists the family name as “Gaedele” as does Eddie and family’s grave markers and father’s WWI registration card in his hand).

    Carl Gaedel was born in Lithuania on September 25, 1886 (per his handwritten WWI registration card, however multiple Census records place his birth circa 1893). He immigrated to the United States in 1902, settling in Chicago, and became a naturalized citizen in 1917. He died prior to 1960.

    Helen Gaedel, nee Janicki, was born in New York or New Jersey (conflicting reports) on April 26, 1901 to Walter and Celia Janicki. Walter was born in Poland in 1878 before immigrating to the U.S. in 1895. Cecelia, five years younger, was also born in Poland, immigrating in 1900. Helen died in March 1982 in Chicago.

    The Gaedels were married in 1919 and moved in with Helen’s parents in Chicago. At the time Carl was working as department store manager. On April 26, 1920 their first child Pearl was born (married name Rosa, died November 11, 2003). Edward was born in 1925. Around that time, the family had saved enough to purchase a $3,000 home at 5246 Knox Avenue in Chicago. He was working as a shoe store salesman. The couple’s third child, Robert P., was born on March 22, 1934 (died November 29, 1991).

    Around the time Gaedel turned three years old, his parents noticed something amiss in his appearance. His growth was stunted; whether it was from a thyroid problem or some other abnormality is not specifically known. He grew to a maximum height of 43 inches, 3’7”, and weighed approximately 65 pounds much of his life. Gaedel’s parents and siblings were all of normal stature.

    As a consequence of his height, Gaedel was continually picked on and taunted as a child. The issue often escalated into fist fights and other maltreatment. Despite the taunting and other issues, Gaedel did graduate high school.

    However, throughout his life, Gaedel was continually insecure and combative about his height and related issues. He also did not like to travel, feeling ill at ease and fearing for his protection and physical well-being away from home.

    Gaedel though was able to adapt and find employment in a variety of fields which welcomed his uniqueness:
    -office helper and errand boy for a local newspaper, the Drover's Daily Journal
    -performed in circuses, rodeos and other entertainment shows (he was placed in many of his gigs by talent agencies which specialized in his area)
    -worked as a riveter during WWII crawling in plane engines and wings and other locales where others couldn’t easily access


    Gaedel’s baseball legacy has been told and retold. It all started in the mind of Bill Veeck (at least we think so and he said so – James Thurber had already published a similar short story in the Saturday Evening Post in 1941). Veeck, as everyone knows, was a showman always looking for the next “bright” idea to spark fan interest. In August 1951, as owner of the American League St. Louis Browns, Veeck was looking for a way to drive attendance. He began focusing on a celebration to honor the 50-year anniversary of the American League, a birthday party of sorts. And for good measure, he decided that his main sponsor, the Falstaff Brewing Co., should be celebrated as well.

    When, why and how the idea of putting a midget on the field came to Veeck is up for conjecture; surely any story he told about it was full of embellishments. He started by contacting a booking agent, Michael Caine (who he had known from his Cleveland days), to find the right individual. This wasn’t as easy at it seemed, as Veeck was continually dissatisfied with the individuals presented to him. He was adamant about hiring a “midget” not a “dwarf,” because he wanted someone that would look somewhat athletic in a baseball uniform.

    Veeck sent his publicity man, Bob Fishel, around to find the right candidate. Finally, Veeck settled on Gaedel, a Chicago entertainer. Veeck then sent his traveling secretary, Bill Durney, to Chicago to pick up Gaedel. Upon nearing the Chase Hotel in St. Louis, Durney had Gaedel hide under some blankets, as Veeck demanded complete secrecy (prior to the stunt only a handful of people knew of the happenings: Veeck, Gaedel, Mrs. Veeck, Fishel, Durney, Browns’ business manager Rudie Schaefer and field manager Zack Taylor).

    Gaedel was smuggled up to the hotel room wrapped in blankets. Durney called Veeck who then told Gaedel of the plans and pumped him up for the occasion. Schaefer located a small jersey in the clubhouse and confiscated it. It was the jersey of Bill DeWitt Jr., the seven-year-old son of the club’s vice president Bill DeWitt Sr. The jersey had #6 on the back but Veeck had it changed to #1/8. Scorecards and other pre-game literature listed the new player as #18, so no one gave it a second thought. (Gaedel also wore slippers turned up at the toes to look like elf shoes)

    Veeck met with Gaedel and told him what he wanted. He wanted Gaedel to squat low at the plate, not swinging and probably taking a walk. Gaedel crouched, displaying a strike zone that Veeck described as 1.5 inches. Gaedel wielded a toy bat.

    By game time though, Gaedel, a showman himself, was getting revved up for the performance. He was swinging the bat and getting into his role. Veeck and crew became worried that Gaedel would set aside the plans and actually try to place a hit or some other such nonsense. In the famous picture of the event Gaedel actually stands somewhat erect, expanding the strike zone. This probably concerned Veeck and others who may have feared for his safety.

    At this point Veeck had to issue a contract for the new player. Gaedel was given a contract for $15,400, which comes out to $100 (minimum scale wage for a midget act) per game. Gaedel waved the normal 30-day clause which guaranteed salary after being released. Veeck also took out a $1,000,000 life insurance policy on Gaedel in case something went wrong. Since it was the weekend, Gaedel’s contract wouldn’t be reviewed by the American League office until Monday at the earliest.

    Between games of a doubleheader on Sunday, August 19, 1951, Veeck had a seven-foot birthday cake wheeled onto the field. Gaedel popped out to the joy of the crowd. Detroit Tigers' pitcher Bob Cain took the mound in the bottom of the first inning and warmed up. Browns’ manager Taylor then signaled for a pinch-hitter, Gaedel in for outfielder Frank Saucier.

    Gaedel strode to the plate; home plate umpire Ed Hurley turned and mumbled, “What the hell?” At that point Taylor presented Gaedel’s legal contract to the umpire and, after some confusion and all-around amusement, Hurley called for a pitch. Gaedel, a righthanded-batter, walked on four pitches and took his base. Jim Delsing was sent in to pinch-run. Gaedel walked off to a standing ovation.

    The whole affair was nearly botched. Bob Fishel said that with all the commotion going on and in his nervousness that he forgot to alert the photographers that something special would be happening in the second game. Most left the park. When Gaedel came to the plate, only the UPI cameraman was rearing to go.

    The aftermath shook baseball, as many found the incident amusing as were offended. American League president Will Harridge was in the latter group. He voided Gaedel’s contract two days later quoting the ‘best interests of baseball’ clause.


    Gaedel played the wronged party. He blasted Harridge for “ruining” his chance at a baseball career. He even bemoaned the fact that baseball didn’t have a commissioner to appeal to (Happy Chandler had recently left office).

    Gaedel capitalized on his instant fame, hiring an agent in Chicago. He appeared on radio programs, television shows and made personal appearances. Within only a few weeks, he had raked in a substantial $17,000 in fees.

    Over the years he appeared at ballparks doing promotional stunts. On September 6, a few weeks after his initial at bat, Gaedel again strode to the plate (receiving a fee of course) during an amateur game in Sycamore, Illinois. He took two quick called strikes, berating the umpire for both. The pitcher balked and then threw another pitch which Gaedel swung at and missed. He left the plate trash talking the umpire.

    Throughout the years, Gaedel found work because of his fame. He worked for as the Buster Brown shoe man appearing at store openings in Chicago and St. Louis. He also landed a gig with the Ringling Brothers Circus and doing promotional work for Mercury Records.

    He could have made a lot more money but was afraid to travel. Hollywood directors wanted him to appear in movies and Mercury records wanted him to tour California, but Gaedel wouldn’t go.

    He would though appear for Veeck a couple more times. On May 26, 1959 Gaedel and three other midgets landed in a helicopter at Comiskey Park. They emerged dressed as Martians and carrying ray guns. They ran to the dugout and captured diminutive middle infielders Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio and took them to home plate for a ceremony.

    On April 19, 1961, two months before his death, Gaedel and seven other midgets work as box seat vendors at Comiskey Park. Veeck says he hired them after hearing complaints that his normal guys blocked the view of some fans.


    Gaedel continually struggled with how some people actually treated him mixed with his perceptions of imaginary slights and offenses. Two weeks after appearing on the diamond for the Browns, Gaedel was arrested for disorderly conduct in Cincinnati where he was performing in a rodeo. He had cussed out some policemen after they asked why “a little boy” was out so late at night.

    Gaedel was combative, especially after drinking which became more and more prevalent. He continually got into fights. One relative described him as having “beer muscles.” It didn’t help that he worked as a bartender at the locally famous Midget Club on Chicago’s Southside.

    Gaedel became more and more of a heavy drinker. He lived at home with his indigent mother and brother in an apartment in the Southside of Chicago. He stuck close to home and was very fond of his mother. His health was also failing due to high blood pressure and an enlarged heart, which was compounded by the drinking.

    On June 18, 1961 Gaedel, unemployed, tied one on at a bowling alley. As usual, he became combative - with either some fellow patrons or others he came across on his way home. Either way, he was followed home and beaten (He may have been mugged as well). His mother found him lying in bed dead. He had bruises about his knees and on the left side of his face. An inquest discovered that he had a heart attack. Gaedel had just turned 36 years old.

    Bob Cain, saying he felt obligated, was the only person from baseball to attend the funeral. He was interred at Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum in Cook County, Illinois
    (Plot: Section G, gravestone number X-363B).

    Helen Gaedel was later conned out of Ed’s Browns’ uniform by a man claiming to be from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 07-24-2008, 07:44 AM.

  • #2
    Thanks for the research. A very sad story. There is a photo on the net of his jersey, but I've never seen his bat. Any more information on these ? Does the HOF have anything of his ?
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Thanks as always, Brian. That was a nice read.
      "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"


      • #4
        I am the nephew of Eddie Gaedel(e) and found your write-up very enlightening. I've never done the extensive research on my family history that you did, although I did know bits and pieces. Eddie died well before I was born (1970) but my mother and father (Robert P) told us all of the stories. Unfortunately, as you accurately state, my dad died in 1991.

        There was a ceremony in 2001 at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown commemorating the 50th anniversary of the event that we were able to attend. We got to meet Mike Veeck, Judy Cain (Bob Cain's daughter), Ed Hurley's (the umpire) grandson, Jim Delsing (still alive and in his 80s), and others. ESPN did an Outside the Lines program about Bill Veeck and filmed the re-enactment of the event (which I was invited to participate in).

        Eddie's and my dad's sister, Pearl, also came out. I hadn't seen her in 25 years, so it was a family reunion of sorts. We got the royal treatment that weekend and were able to tour the Hall of Fame for free.

        Eddie's jersey is, in fact, at the Hall of Fame. And to answer one of the poster's questions, my older brother actually does have the toy bat Eddie used. He brought it that weekend but did not give it up to the HOF.

        Anyway, I'd be interested on how you did that research on my family's history. I was always told that Carl changed his real Lithuanian name to Gaedele, after coming to the US, to better fit in. I'm not sure of the spelling but I believe his original name sounded something like Guy'dell'us (phoenetic spelling).

        Thanks for posting!!
        Dave Gaedele


        • #5
          Eddie Gaedel's Jersey

          Originally posted by Brian McKenna View Post
          Eddie Gaedel

          Schaefer located a small jersey in the clubhouse and confiscated it. It was the jersey of Bill DeWitt Jr., the seven-year-old son of the club’s vice president Bill DeWitt Sr. The jersey had #6 on the back but Veeck had it changed to #1/8. Scorecards and other pre-game literature listed the new player as #18, so no one gave it a second thought.

          Helen Gaedel was later conned out of Ed’s baseball bat and his Browns’ uniform by a man claiming to be from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
          It is my understanding that Bill DeWitt Jr (current Cardinals' principal owner) still has the 1/8 jersey that Gaedel used in his lone at bat. I think the Browns' uniform that was in the posession of Mrs. Gaedel must not have been the original. I do not know anything about the bat.


          • #6
            Originally posted by David Gaedele View Post
            Anyway, I'd be interested on how you did that research on my family's history.
            Dave Gaedele
            You're local library should offer you access to That's what I primarily used. If you send me your email (can do it via private message), I'll look through my files and give you reference listings for the U.S. Censuses.

            The library may also offer you access to Proquest which will provide contemporary newspaper articles. This combination could prove enlightening, as I did not write up everything I found. The newspapers provided a good deal of info as well:

            New York Times
            Washington Post
            Sporting News (via

            I didn't at the time have access to the Chicago Tribune which very well may have additional material since that was his hometwon.
            Last edited by Brian McKenna; 07-21-2008, 10:19 AM.


            • #7
              Thanks much. I will contact you.


              • #8
                Originally posted by disgrig View Post
                It is my understanding that Bill DeWitt Jr (current Cardinals' principal owner) still has the 1/8 jersey that Gaedel used in his lone at bat. I think the Browns' uniform that was in the posession of Mrs. Gaedel must not have been the original. I do not know anything about the bat.
                The bat is owned by Eddie's great-nephew, current Madison Mallard, Kyle Gaedele.


                • #9
                  A bit of a thread resurrection, as this thread was a few pages deep.... But it was a GREAT read, and Eddie's nephew shows up? Got to love it..... This is simply the best baseball site on the Internet. As a native St Louisan, I've always had an interest in the Browns, and often wear my 1944 home cap out and about Indianapolis. Occassionally an old timer will chat me up about it. My grandfather was more of a Browns fan than a Cards fan, which is saying something, as he would have been in his 20's and starting a family right as Musial got to the big leagues and the Cards did great things in the 40's.
                  "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."


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