Bob Cain remembers warming up before the bottom of the first
inning of a game between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis
Browns on Aug. 19, 1951. It was the second game of a
doubleheader in St. Louis, and Browns owner Bill Veeck had
arranged between-games entertainment for the 18,369 fans who
showed up at Sportsman's Park that day.
Veeck had promised the fans something they would never forget.
That something was Eddie Gaedel. In between games, a trailer
carrying a large papier-mache cake was rolled onto the field
near the Browns' dugout. Out jumped Gaedel, a 3'7", 65-pound
midget wearing a Browns uniform with the number 1/8 on the back.
He waved a miniature bat, then trotted into the dugout. "I kept
thinking it was another promotion," says Cain, now 71. "Who knew
what was going on? Frank Saucier started in centerfield for the
Browns that day, and we knew he had a sore arm, but who would
imagine the little guy would be brought in as a pinch hitter?"
St. Louis manager Zack Taylor produced Gaedel's contract, which
had been sent to the league office the night before. Umpire Ed
Hurley hollered, "Play ball!" and Tigers catcher Bob Swift
trotted out to the mound. "We laughed a little, and I asked
Swift if I should pitch to him underhanded," Cain says. "It was
one of those moments that I knew would be remembered for a long
time, and I wanted to handle myself properly. So we decided to
pitch to him. Unfortunately, Eddie had a strike zone about the
size of a baby's bib."
Four pitches later Gaedel was skipping to first base. Jim
Delsing came out to pinch-run for Gaedel, who waved to the
roaring crowd as he returned to the dugout. "My teammate Dizzy
Trout told me that if he'd been pitching, he would have plunked
Gaedel right between the eyes," Cain says. Cain and the Tigers
won the game 6-2, but the outcome was overshadowed by Gaedel's
unforgettable base on balls.
September 1, 1996
Cain is philosophical about his link to Gaedel and, through him,
to baseball history. "But sometimes I wish I was remembered a
little more for some of the other things I did in baseball
besides pitching four balls to a midget," he says.
Cain was called up by the Chicago White Sox in 1949, and in his
first appearance he pitched in relief against the Boston Red Sox
at Fenway Park. The first batter he faced? Ted Williams. "Ted
worked the count to 3 and 2, and I had a feeling he was looking
for a fastball," Cain says. "So I threw him a curve for a called
strike three. He went back to the dugout, and I stood on the
mound in shock."
There were other highlights in Cain's five-year major league
career with the White Sox, the Tigers and, finally, the Browns.
In Cain's first big league start, in 1950, the White Sox beat
the Yankees 15-0 at Yankee Stadium. In 1952, pitching for the
Browns, Cain outdueled Bob Feller and the Cleveland Indians 1-0.
Both pitchers threw one-hitters. "Two years later I hurt my
wrist, and my career went with it," says Cain, whose lifetime
record was 37-44.
Cain never spoke with Gaedel after that Tigers-Browns game, but
when Gaedel died in 1961, at age 36, from injuries suffered in a
mugging, Cain and his wife, Judy, went to Chicago for the
funeral. There was only a handful of people there, and Cain was
the only one with a baseball connection. "We saw Eddie's mother,
Helene, and I know it meant a lot to her that Judy and I were
there," Cain says.
In 1994 Cain, who lives in Euclid, Ohio, reenacted the Gaedel at
bat at a St. Paul Saints minor league game, pitching to the
10-year-old son of the Saints' manager. The Saints are owned by
Bill Veeck's son, Mike, who said, "The fans enjoyed the
re-creation. My dad used to say that if as many people who told
him over the years they were there to see Eddie Gaedel had
actually been at the ballpark that day, he'd still own the St.
Afterward Mike Veeck complimented Gaedel's one-time straight
man. "Bob Cain is a delightful guy," he said. "Baseball needs
more people like him." The game also needs more owners like
Freelancer Mark Mandernach was not at Sportsman's Park the day
Eddie Gaedel batted.