It is one of the most unforgettable, if not one of the most unusual, images in major league baseball history.
Eddie Gaedel, all 3-foot-7 and 65 pounds of him, crouched over in the batter's box, waiting for a pitch that would never come anywhere near a strike zone that was estimated to be 1.5 inches in height.
The stunt pulled off 64 years ago -- Aug. 19, 1951 -- was the brainchild of St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck, who was widely regarded as the game's greatest showman during his tenures as the owner of the Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
Kyle Gaedele, Eddie's grandnephew (Eddie dropped the last "e" in his surname after constant mispronunciations), is only 25 years old, but he never gets tired of talking about a play he discovered just 14 years ago.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Gaedele is an outfielder in the San Diego Padres farm system currently playing for the Double-A San Antonio Missions. He admits he didn't know much about his great-uncle's legendary (and only) plate appearance when he and his family were invited to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, for the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous walks in history in 2001.
"I was actually on the field for the re-enactment," Gaedele said. "I was 11 years old, and that was the first time seeing his jersey and his picture and hearing the story of what happened. That was the first time I was really told the story and knew what was going on."
Gaedele remembers the display featuring the famous No. 1/8 on the back of the Browns jersey Gaedel wore for his lone plate appearance as a major leaguer as well as his baggy pants and spikes. He also knew exactly where the bat was. Gaedel had given the miniature-sized bat to his brother, Bob, who would later give it to his son (Kyle's father), who was also named Bob, when he was 12.
"My dad had the bat forever, but we recently sold the bat he used in an auction," Gaedele said. "It was sad to see it go, but it was also the right time to do that. It was my dad's bat and he wanted to do it."
The starting bid for the bat was $20,000, and it ended up selling for $44,812 at a Heritage Auction two years ago.
Speaking on the phone from San Antonio on Tuesday, the night before the 64th anniversary of Gaedel's plate appearance, Gaedele admitted having to answer questions about his great-uncle at every stop of his baseball career: from Valparaiso, where he chose to go after being selected out of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 32nd round of the of the 2008 draft, to minor league stints in Eugene, Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore after being selected by the Padres in the sixth round of the 2011 draft.
"It's one of the most iconic moments in baseball, so for me to be connected to it through family bloodlines, I'm really proud of that and I know my family is as well."Kyle Gaedele
"I don't mind talking about it. I take a lot of pride in it," Gaedele said.
Gaedele's father played baseball at Jacksonville University from 1977 to '79 and coached Kyle and his two brothers from the time they could hold a bat. Gaedele's father was just 4 when Eddie died in 1961, so the memories the family members have of their famous relative is mostly made up of stories they've been told and pictures they've been shown.
"I know he did a couple of stunts, but the pinch-hit was the most memorable," Gaedele said. "He did some other stunts for Bill Veeck as well, but he was a tough guy. He was small and he was made fun of, but he didn't take any junk from anybody. He was a pretty tough guy, from what I've heard."
Gaedel, who was replaced by pinch runner Jim Delsing after walking on four pitches, finished his major league career with an on-base percentage of 1.000 and as one of only five major leaguers who drew a walk in their only plate appearance and never played the field. Gaedele laughs when asked about the difference in height between him and his great-uncle. While Gaedel was the shortest and lightest player to ever bat in a major league game, Gaedele looks like a prototypical major league outfielder.
"Eddie was 3-7, my dad is about 6-foot and my mom is about 5-7," Gaedele said. "My older brother is about 6-foot and my younger brother and I are about 6-3. Maybe it skipped a generation or something. I don't know."
While Gaedel's entry into the game is viewed as one of Veeck's most memorable stunts -- along with Grandstand Manager's Day and Disco Demolition Night -- it still represents the lone major league appearance by anyone in the family. That's something Gaedele, who is batting .222 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs in two minor league stops this season, would like to change.
"I've been playing ever since I can remember," Gaedele said. "My dad was my coach until I went to college, and ever since I can remember I've always been around the game and played the game. Our whole family has been around the game forever. I want to play for as long I can and for as long as baseball allows me to play. I love the game. When that's over, whenever that is, I'd like to coach in college one day and still be involved in the game in some way."
Whenever Gaedele sees the unforgettable picture of his great-uncle crouched over in the batter's box more than six decades ago, he says he thinks back to his trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame and smiles.
"It was my first and only time going to Cooperstown, and just to know that people know about it and still talk about it is great," Gaedele said. "It's one of the most iconic moments in baseball, so for me to be connected to it through family bloodlines, I'm really proud of that and I know my family is as well."