Before the second game of a doubleheader on Aug. 19, 1951, between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns at Sportsman’s Park, the managers exchanged lineup cards, and nothing special stood out in either of them. Both teams had similar starting lineups to the first game of the twin bill, which was won by the visiting Tigers, 5-2.
And the nightcap started out with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. Detroit got two runners on base in the top of the first thanks to a couple of walks, but neither was able to score.
Then came a moment that nobody there would ever forget and that would forever live long in baseball lore.
Frank Saucier, who had made his major league debut less than a month earlier, on July 21, was scheduled to lead off for the Browns after making one of his six career starts at this level. But that wasn’t the interesting part. It was him being pinch hit for by Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot-7-inch man.
Upon seeing Gaedel walk up to the plate, the fans “erupted with amazement and amusement.” Detroit’s starting pitcher, Bob Cain, laughed at how crazy this situation was and then could not hit the tiny strike zone of an inch or two high, and Gaedel walked on four pitches. He was then promptly taken out as Jim Delsing replaced him at first before taking Saucier’s spot in the outfield in the top of the second.
Bill Veeck, the eccentric owner of the St. Louis Browns, was known for publicity stunts, and this was one of them. And he had covered his bases, sending Gaedel’s player contract to the league office late on a Friday, assuming that it would be immediately approved and not analyzed until Monday, which is exactly what happened. Once Gaedel made his way to the plate, the umpire, Ed Hurley, asked to see a copy of his contract, looked it over and then told the midget to get in the batter’s box.