The press, for the most part, took the sane attitude that Gaedel had provided a bright moment in what could easily have been a deadly dull doubleheader between a 7th and 8th place ball club. Vincent X. Flaherty of Los Angeles pretty much summed up the general reaction when he wrote, "I do not advocate baseball burlesque. Such practices do not redound to the better interests of the game—but I claim it was the funniest thing that has happened to baseball in years."
It's fine to be appreciated for a day; I recommend it highly for the soul. It's better for the box office, though, to be attacked for a full week. I was counting on the deacons to turn Gaedel into a full week's story by attacking me for spitting on their Cathedral. They didn't let me down, although I did feel the words "cheap and tawdry and "travesty" and "mockery" were badly overworked. The spirit was willing, but I'm afraid the rhetoric was weak.
Dan Daniel, a well-known high priest from New York, wondered what "Ban Johnson and John J. McGraw are saying about it up there in Baseball's Valhalla," a good example of Dan's lean and graceful style. Non-baseball fans should understand that baseball men do not go to heaven or hell when they die; they go to Valhalla where they sit around a hot stove and talk over the good old days with Odin, Thor and the rest of the crowd. (I am assuming that the baseball people haven't driven the Norse gods out to the suburbs. You know what guys like Johnson and McGraw do to real-estate values.)
To Joe Williams, Daniel's colleague on the New York World-Telegraph, I was "that fellow Veeck out in St. Louis."
"It didn't matter that this made a mockery of the sport or that it exploited a freak of biology in a shameful, disgraceful way," Williams wrote. " . . . What he calls showmanship can more often be accurately identified as vulgarity."
I have never objected to being called vulgar. The word, as I never tire of pointing out to my tireless critics, comes from the Latin vulgaris, which means—students?—"the common people." (If you don't believe it, Joe, you could look it up.) I am so darn vulgar that I will probably never get into Valhalla, which is a shame because I would love to be able to let McGraw know how he helped that little boy who used to listen to him, enraptured, over the dinner table. From what I can remember of McGraw, he would roar with delight.
What that fellow Williams in New York didn't seem to realize—or did he?—was that it was he who was gratuitously and publicly calling Eddie Gaedel a freak. Eddie was a professional midget. He made his living by displaying himself, the only way we permit a midget to earn a living in our enlightened society. In more barbaric times, they were able to achieve a certain stature as court jesters. My use of him—vulgaris that I am—was the biggest thing that ever happened to him. In the week that followed, I got him bookings that earned him something between $5,000 and $10,000. I kept getting him bookings here and there for the rest of his life. Eddie hungered for another chance at the spotlight. Whenever he came to a town where I was operating he would phone and say, "OK, Boss, I'm ready."
I did use him for a couple of my gags. One of the last times was at Comiskey Park in Chicago, about a year before his death. Eddie and three other midgets, all dressed in regimental Martian clothing (gold helmets and shoes, coveralls, oxygen tanks), somehow dropped out of the heavens in a helicopter and landed directly behind second base. Quickly capturing our tiny second-base combination, Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio, they made them honorary Martians and informed them—over the remarkably handy public-address system—that they had come down to aid them in their battle against the giant earthlings.
It was during this historic meeting that Eddie Gaedel uttered those immortal words, "I don't want to be taken to your leader. I've already met him."
Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages 11-23 of Veeck -- As In Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1962 by Mary Frances Veeck and Edward Linn. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.