When St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck hired 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit back in August 1951, he needed a little uniform for the little person to wear. In a pinch, Veeck turned to Bil DeWitt, an executive in the front office and former owner of the Brows, for help. DeWitt had an answer: A custom uniform worn by his 10-year-old son, Bill Jr., could be tailored quickly enough for Gaedel to use.
Veeck removed the No. 6 on the back — for Bill DeWitt Jr.'s favorite player, Bobby Dillinger — and had a "1/8" sewn into the jersey. Suited and ready, Gaedel strolled to the plate with a 17-inch, 23-ouce bat and orders not to swing. Gaedel walked on four pitches by Detroit's Bob Cain and was removed for a pinch runner — but never to be removed from history.
And now, Gaedel's jersey, which used to belong to little Bill DeWitt — who grew up to buy the St. Louis Cardinals — is coming back to St. Louis after spending years on display at Cooperstown. The Cardinals are opening a museum and hall of fame in the "Ballpark Village" that is being constructed across the street from Busch Stadium. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Gaedel's jersey is among the neater items coming to the Cards' museum:
The jersey was returned to DeWitt, and even then with an eye for history he kept it. The Cardinals' collection set for the Hall of Fame comes from items acquired by the DeWitt family, some even from their private collection, and from a treasure trove of items donated by Stan Musial through the years. There is the ball from the first homer Musial hit as a grandfather. There is a ball signed by the 1926 Cardinals after the franchise's first World Series. Babe Ruth also, inexplicably, signed the ball -- on the sweet spot. The Cardinals have a jersey worn by Pete Alexander and one owned by Branch Rickey.
Great head's up on the part of the DeWitt years ago to keep the jersey. If only someone had had the foresight to film Gaedel's appearance.
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