On Tuesday, in the sixth round of the MLB Draft, the San Diego Padres selectedoutfielder Kyle Gaedele (who the Tampa Bay Rays had previously drafted in the 32nd round of the 2008 draft). Gaedele plays center field and shows good signs of hitting for power, but what most writers, sports fans, and guys named Bradley talk about is Gaedele’s great uncle.
Casual fans probably do not know about Kyle’s great uncle, Eddie Gaedel (who removed the e off his last name for show-business purposes). We nerds can forgive the casual fan for forgetting a player who outdid, in his career, only the great Otto Neu. Gaedel took a single at-bat, walked to first, and then left for a pinch runner.
What makes Eddie Gaedel a unique and important part of baseball history, however, is not his statistics, per se, but his stature. Gaedel stood 3’7″ tall, almost half the height of his great nephew. Gaedel was the first and last little person to play in Major League Baseball, and the time has come for that to change.
In baseball, the strike zone (effectively the target that a pitcher must aim for) is defined relative to the size of the hitter. A very small player has a very small strike zone, so small that many pitchers will have a hard time throwing strikes. Insert such a batter at a key moment, he walks to first base and then you replace him with a fast runner. Why doesn’t every team have such a player on their roster?
Cap Clutch: Vinnie Bergl.