Sunday, August 18, 2013

Monday is Humanitarian Day, Potato Day, Aviation Day

Monday August 19 is Humanitarian Day, Potato Day, and Aviation Day. Aviation Day remembers the birthday of Orville Wright. Monday is also Bill Clinton's birthday.

But all of that's rather... humdrum. Routine. Boring, even.

Especially when one compares these microminiholidayettes to the fact that August 19 is also the anniversary of the day, in 1951, that Eddie Gaedel went to bat for the St. Louis Browns.

All 3'7" of him.

This was not a stunt.

Well, OK, it was a stunt -- but it wasn't a gag: Eddie Gaedel had a valid contract to play baseball for the Browns (the umpire demanded to see it when Gaedel, wearing a miniature uniform, bearing number 1/8, stepped into the box to pinch hit during the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers). Gaedel took four pitches, all balls (of course -- where was there a strike zone?) and took his base -- and his place in baseball history -- whereupon a pinch runner was duly substituted.

The late Bill Veeck was then the owner of the Browns and the madman who signed Gaedel for this singular appearance. As he told the story, his one fear was that Gaedel would get ambitious and attempt to take a swing. Gaedel, after all, was a professional performer. He might have been inspired by the cheers of the crowd. Sometimes, when he told the story, Veeck claimed to have warned Gaedel that he had positioned a sniper on the roof of the stadium, ordering the sniper to kill Gaedel if the bat came off his shoulders. That probably was a bit of an embellishment.

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