Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bill Veeck and Eddie Gaebel

a photo of Eddie Gaebel batting for the St. Louis Browns
Eddie Gaebel batting for the Browns in 1951
In the previous post, I wrote about a little person who is allegedly the lucky charm for the Milwaukee Brewers.  The most famous little person ever connected to a Major League Baseball Team is Eddie Gaebel.  Gaebel actually played for a baseball team called the St. Louis Browns for one inning of one game in 1951.  Bill Veeck was the owner of the Browns, which was one of the worst teams in the history of baseball. On the 50th Anniversary of the American League, in 1951, as a publicity stunt, Veeck signed Gaebel to a contract and brought him on to the team.  Early in the game, Gaebel was sent to the plate to bat.  He quickly walked on four pitches    
                                                                 then was replaced by a pinch runner. 

Last weekend, as I was looking for information about the Milwaukee Brewer Lucky Charm, stories about Veeck and Gaebel popped up in my internet searches.  As someone who loves baseball and is part of dwarfism culture, I've read stories about Gaebel hundreds of times.  The story is often retold.  This past weekend, when the stories popped up, what I found most interesting was the language that was used.  Back in the 50's, "midget" was the accepted term to identify a person of short stature.  Even recently, when stories about Gaebel were told, the word "midget" was used.  But in my most recent searches, I noticed that some accounts used the word little person.  A piece from a website called Baseball Suite101 actually uses the word "midget" in the headline, then includes a sidebar about the evolution of the word "midget" and uses the term little person in the body of the text.  It's kind of confusing to me why, if they acknowledge the evolution of the language, the website still uses the m-word in the title.  Nevertheless I think it was constructive for the story to make an acknowledgement of language.   Also, a few years ago, a writer from ESPN who was working on a piece about Gaebel contacted Little People of America for guidance on language. 

photo of Bill Veeck with no shirt in the bleachers at Wrigley Field
As I kid, I knew of Veeck as a guy with no shirt hanging out at Wrigley Field
People are short stature still face road blocks to opportunity.  These roadblocks are sometimes physical and sometimes social.  In the grand scheme of things, if a story about Eddie Gaebel uses the m-word, it is probably not that significant of a road block.  But it is heartening and encouraging to witness the evolution of language in stories about Gaebel.  I think it is a reflection of the ground that the dwarfism community has covered and a reflection of how much better the general population now interacts with and responds to the dwarfism community. 

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