If you don’t like the way Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez, Bryce Harper and those other young kids disrespect the game you woulda hated Bill Veeck.
Among all of the other things he did that made baseball fun and enjoyable and altogether less serious than so many people seem to want it to be, he once sent a little person up to bat because he was sure he could draw a walk with that small strike zone. And, more to the point, because it’d be a lot of fun and would create publicity for his otherwise uninteresting St. Louis Browns team. That man’s name was Eddie Gaedel and it happened on this date in 1951.
You can read all of the details of the now-famous story of Eddie Gaedel over at the SABR website. In addition to the well-known facts of the incident — such as Veeck’s strict orders to Gaedel to not swing the bat — are lesser-known facts too. Like the fact that this wasn’t Gaedel’s last at-bat:
Gaedel capitalized on his instant fame. He appeared on radio and television shows and made personal appearances. Within a few weeks, he had raked in a substantial $17,000. Over the years he appeared at ballparks during promotional stunts. On September 6, a few weeks after his initial at-bat, Gaedel again strode to the plate for a fee during an amateur game in Sycamore, Illinois. He took two quick called strikes, berating the umpire for both. The pitcher balked and threw another pitch which Gaedel swung at and missed. He left the plate trash-talking the umpire.
Like now, people got mad then too. Like now, there are a substantial number of people in the world who wouldn’t know what fun was if it fell out of the sky, landed on their face and started to wiggle.
Major League Baseball wants to give the United Kingdom a taste of America’s pastime when the Yankees and Red Sox visit next month. Based on the playing surface they’re going to use, however, they may as well have sent the Blue Jays and the Rays:
Major League Baseball has access to Olympic Stadium for 21 days before the games on June 29 and 30, the sport’s first regular-season contests in Europe, and just five days after to clear out. The league concluded that there was not enough time to install real grass.
Starting June 6, gravel will be placed over the covering protecting West Ham’s grass soccer pitch and the running track that is a legacy from the 2012 Olympics. The artificial turf baseball field, similar to modern surfaces used by a few big league clubs, will be installed atop that.
At least they will not use the old-style sliding pits/turf infield that you used to always see. That’ll all be dirt. There are comments in the article about how it’s a cost savings too since they’re going back next year and won’t have to bulldoze and re-grow grass. Aaron Boone and Xander Bogaerts were asked and they don’t seem to care since it’s similar to the surface they play on in Toronto or down in Florida against the Rays.
Still, this whole deal is not aimed at doing whatever is minimally necessary to pull off a ballgame. It’s supposed to be a showcase on a global stage in a world capital. I have no idea how anyone thinks that doing that on a surface everyone has decided is obsolete for baseball playing purposes unless the ballpark is either outdated or in an arid environment is a good idea.
It’s certainly not baseball putting its best foot forward. Major League Baseball could’ve avoided this by choosing a different venue or even building a temporary one like MLB has done on a few occasions in the past. That, I suppose, would limit the revenue-generation capacity of these games, however, that’s off the table in the Rob Manfred Era.
Yankees and Red Sox on turf. What a decision.