The most publicized stunt in baseball history took place August 19, 1951, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, when, to the surprise of 18,369 fans, 3’7″ 65-lb midget Eddie Gaedel emerged from a seven-foot birthday cake between games of a Browns-Tigers doubleheader. Browns owner Bill Veeck concocted the idea to boost attendance, and to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of both the American League and the Falstaff Brewing Co., radio sponsor of the Browns.
Gaedel, a stage performer, was wearing a Browns uniform with the number 1/8, and little slippers turned up at the end like elf’s shoes. In the bottom of the first, St. Louis manager Zach Taylor sent Gaedel to the plate to pinch hit for Frank Saucier. Veeck had instructed the diminutive Brownie to crouch low, and not swing his toy-like bat. Detroit skipper Red Rolfe protested Gaedel’s presence, but Taylor produced a legitimate contract, filed with the AL and cleared by umpire Ed Hurley.
In his stance, Gaedel’s strike zone measured 1-1/2 inches. Detroit pitcher Bob Cain walked the midget, throwing four straight balls. When Jim Delsing went in to run for him, the crowd gave Gaedel a standing ovation. The Browns lost, 6-2, despite Gaedel’s instant offense. AL president Will Harridge was furious with Veeck’s burlesque and unsuccessfully tried to strike Gaedel’s name from the record books. Gaedel was paid $100 for his appearance, and was insured for $1 million by Veeck. In future years Veeck used him in a few other promotions.