•baseball high jinks
Text written by Albert Kilchesty
Spaceman Brand (Baseball Reliquary collection)
The colorful and quotable left-handed pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee (b. 1946) starred for the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 1982. His candor and outspokenness mixed with a counterculture sensibility—“I sprinkle pot on my pancakes”—that delighted sportswriters and younger fans but unsettled the baseball establishment. Tagged with the sobriquet “Spaceman” early in his career as a reference to his curious relationship with the cosmos, Lee milked maximum mileage from the nickname: the depiction of him in a space suit appeared as the dust jacket photograph for his autobiography The Wrong Stuff. At the same time, he insisted that the terrestrial realm was his true home—he signs his name still as “Bill Lee, Earth.”
Little Eddie's Excellent Day in the Bigs Brand (private collection)
Wee Eddie Gaedel—a 3’ 7” midget stuntman and vaudeville actor—had only one plate appearance in the major leagues, but looms large still in baseball lore. Signed to a player contract by Bill Veeck, owner of the St. Louis Browns, Gaedel appeared as the lead-off batter in the second game of a 1951 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Veeck warned Gaedel not to swing at any pitch; if he did, Veeck promised, he would be shot by a sniper lurking in the grandstand. Gaedel obediently took four straight pitches, all balls, from Tiger pitcher Bob Cain. As soon as he reached first base Gaedel was removed for a pinch runner. In the central image Gaedel receives pre-game attention from Browns manager Zack Taylor. At lower right, in one of baseball’s most famous photographs, Gaedel—dressed in a child’s uniform with the fraction 1/8 stitched on his back—cocks his toy bat as he awaits the first pitch. Gaedel was later hired by Veeck for other promotions during the 1950s. Eddie met a tragic end after being beaten up outside a bar in 1961.
...as in Wreck Brand
Bill Veeck (1914‒1986), maverick owner of the Milwaukee Brewers (minor leagues), Cleveland Indians, St, Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox, is seen here surrounded by images from his most (in)famous promotions. Veeck, who wore a series of wooden prosthetic legs as a result of an injury sustained in World War II, insisted that baseball should be entertaining. The fans came first, this P.T. Barnum of baseball believed, and should receive their money’s worth at the ballpark, especially when the product on the field was. . . not so great. A few of his many stunts appear here. Clockwise from top left: fans vote YES or NO during “Grandstand Managers’ Day” at a 1951 game while dancing girls—from an earlier promotion—prance below; manager Casey Stengel confronts an immovable object during a WWII promotion in Milwaukee; midgets cavort in Martian outfits at Comiskey Park, Chicago in 1959; and midget Eddie Gaedel poses with a toy bat as he awaits the first pitch during a game at St. Louis vs. the Tigers in 1951. The brand name refers to Veeck as in Wreck, Bill’s 1962 autobiography.