FORT WAYNE – Perhaps the most famous stunt in baseball history took place on this day in 1951.
Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot-7 entertainer, took four balls in his only trip to the plate with the St. Louis Browns.
Gaedels great-nephew Kyle Gaedele is an outfielder with the TinCaps.
I think its a great honor for me and my family, Kyle Gaedele said during an interview last week. Its history. Its part of baseball history. To have the Gaedele name as a part of baseball history forever, Im proud of it. I know my parents, my family is proud of it. It means a lot to me.
There are some differences between the two.
Gaedel, according to legend, was ordered not to swing by Browns owner Bill Veeck, the mastermind of the stunt. Gaedele has become one of the more reliable hitters for the TinCaps as they make a push for the playoffs. Hes hitting .251 for the TinCaps (.316 after the All-Star break).
Theres the case of the e. Gaedel took the e off his name, Kyle said, for entertainment purposes.
He didnt like when people mispronounced his last name, Gaedele said. He thought if he took the e off, people would get it right.
And then theres the height. Kyle is almost 6-foot-4.
Im glad I got the good genes, Gaedele said.
Eddie Gaedel died in 1961. He was 36. He has gone on to have a lasting legacy.
I really know as much as anybody else who knows the story knows, Gaedele said. Its kind of cool to me.
Veeck signed Gaedel to a one-day contract. According to Gaedels New York Times obituary, which appears on the Baseball Almanac website, Gaedel first made an appearance by popping out of a cake between games of a doubleheader against Detroit.
He pinch-hit in the first inning of Game 2 and was walked on four pitches by Bob Cain. Gaedel was then lifted for a pinch-runner.
Gaedele and his family traveled to the Hall of Fame on the 50th anniversary of the event to watch a re-enactment.
I dont really remember much about the whole re-enactment. I remember being in Cooperstown and just having an amazing feeling, Gaedele said. Its an awesome experience to have, especially when you are that young.
Gaedeles family has a piece of memorabilia from the Aug. 19, 1951, event. His dad, Bob, is in possession of the bat.
My dad gave it to me when I was 10 years old and I just held on to it, Bob Gaedele said. I just thought it was pretty cool that my uncle used this bat in a major league game.
We took it to the Hall of Fame and they wanted it, but we wanted to keep it in our family.
Gaedele has been asked about his ties countless times.
I told him when he started playing baseball he would get a lot of questions asked about Eddie Gaedel, Bob Gaedele said. Him being the great-nephew of Eddie and if he did make it to play professional baseball that that would be a legacy for him, to continue on the Gaedele name.
Kyle even gets a mention at the end of Gaedels Wikipedia entry.
Right when I got into college (Valparaiso) and playing summer ball, thats when it really started coming out, he said. I did a couple of interviews with MLB Network right before the draft and it came out again.
His teammates get a kick out of the connection.
They really dont believe it because he was 3-foot-7 and Im close to being 6-4, Gaedele said. Theyre like, Theres no way. They are kind of in shock. I get different reactions. Guys have been impressed by it.