The actual bat Gaedel took to the plate on August 19, 1951!1951 Eddie Gaedel Game Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10.
"Eddie, I've got your life insured for a million dollars. I've got a gun stashed up on the roof. But don't you let any of that bother you. You just crouch over like you've been doing and take four pitches, huh?"
Bill Veeck, St. Louis Browns owner and the greatest showman in the history of our National Pastime, probably hadn't actually posted a sniper atop Sportsman's Park, but it wouldn't have been the craziest thing he'd ever done. In the course of his four decades in the front offices of the Phillies, Indians, Browns and White Sox, Veeck authored some of the most outlandish stunts in Major League history. Ten Cent Beer Night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1974 quite predictably degenerated into a drunken riot, complete with multiple streakers and a barrage of projectiles raining down from the grandstands, necessitating a forfeit for the home team. Disco Demolition Night ended the same way at Comiskey, the outfield strewn with shards of LP records and several thousand crazed fans.
But the Hall of Fame executive will always be best remembered for the Gaedel stunt, the first and certainly the most peaceful of his three greatest hits. Half a dozen years had passed since the St. Louis Browns had placed better than seventh in the American League when Veeck purchased an eighty percent stake in the club prior to the 1951 season, and he was realistic about his chances at making a run for the flag anytime soon. So, if losing was inevitable, best to do it with a smile.
Fans and press hoping for something special from Veeck as the Browns celebrated the American League's Golden Anniversary on August 19, 1951 were initially disappointed. Eddie Gaedel, a three-foot seven-inch tall "little person" burst out of a papier-mache cake during the intermission between the first and second games, a scene that was good for a chuckle, sure, but fell well short of Veeck's promise of "a festival of surprises" that had enticed ticket buyers.
But the cake gag revealed itself as a cunning misdirection when the Browns came to bat in the bottom of the first inning and Gaedel trotted out to the plate to pinch hit for lead-off batter Frank Saucier with the number "1/8" applied to the back of his tiny St. Louis Browns jersey. Umpire Ed Hurley immediately summoned Browns manager Zack Taylor, who was prepared with a copy of Gaedel's contract on hand along with a copy of the team's active roster with room for Gaedel's addition. Laughter echoed through the stadium as Taylor confirmed that all paperwork was in order.
"Keep it low," Detroit Tigers pitcher Bob Swift advised southpaw Bob Cain on the mound over the cacophony of guffaws, but Cain could barely contain his own laughter as he gazed in on Gaedel at the plate, crouched into a deep DiMaggio stance that contracted his strike zone to virtual non-existence. Four pitches later, Gaedel was on his way to first, stopping twice to tip his hat to the fans as the crowd of 18,000 roared its approval. Gaedel was immediately lifted for a pinch runner, his Major League career even shorter than his frame.
Proudly presented here, for the very first time, is the bat that Eddie Gaedel kept glued to his shoulder during the most hilarious episode in Major League history. The eighteen-inch long "Sisler-Hummel, St. Louis, MO." promotional model lumber has remained in the Gaedele family ever since Eddie brought it home from the ballpark and made it a gift to his brother. In fact, Eddie brought home all three bats he had swung in the batting circle, just like a real Major Leaguer, but made a point of giving the "gamer" to his brother who had many times been his protector during countless run ins with bullies. The other bats went to the son of Eddie's sister and a Chicago "midget bar," as reported by the Gaedele family.
We should take a moment to address the variations in surname spelling for clarity-Eddie was born with the same surname as the rest of his family but dropped the "e" at the end for "show biz" reasons, tired of the mispronunciation of "Gaedel-y."
The bat is accompanied by two DVD's, one covering the Gaedel event, hosted by Bob Costas, and the other covering the drafting of Kyle Gaedele, Eddie's great nephew and the son of the consignor, by the San Diego Padres. In both DVD's the bat is pictured, and bat expert John Taube has established a grain match between the pictured bat and subject bat. Additionally, the Costas DVD has two shots of Gaedel on August 19, 1951 that confirms his use of a small souvenir bat. The first shows him on deck with three bats in his hand. The other shows him sitting in the dugout with two bats under his right leg.
These photo matches, and the Gaedele family provenance that concludes with a signed letter from Eddie's nephew and godson, compel foremost bat expert John Taube to assign the diminutive lumber the highest rating possible, a PSA/DNA GU 10. Joining this expert paperwork is an assembly of related paperwork and photography from the family, including snapshots of the family at the Baseball Hall of Fame with the bat, a letter from the HOF requesting donation of the bat, various photocopies of vintage news clippings related to Gaedel's life and death, and even two vintage snapshots of Eddie in his casket. Letter of provenance from Gaedel's nephew. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 10.
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