Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Eddie Gaedel: The Little Guy Who Won't Go Away

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Page 6 of 6

In St. Louis, between 10th and 11th streets on Locust Avenue, is the Tiny Bar, which was opened by Aaron Perlut and three partners in May. The bar is so named for a dimensional reason -- it has three stools and a few tables crammed into its 250 square feet.

The name of the bar has other connotations: The owners hired Phil Jarvis to do the ten-by-twelve-foot Gaedel-inspired mural, and on its drink menu, for $10, is the "1/8" -- an insane combination of rum, orange curacao, pineapple syrup, grenadine, lime juice and bitters. Play it safe and order an Alka-Seltzer for a chaser.

The Tiny Bar's Wi-Fi password is Gaedel-related. Another drink on the menu is the "Yellow Brick Road," which must have something to do with Oz and the Munchkins.

"There's enough big in the world, so we decided to go small," Perlut says. "So here's to the little guy, and nobody in St. Louis exemplifies the little guy better than Eddie Gaedel. He exemplified the underdog spirit that we're trying to acknowledge."

In another bar, the famed Sardi's in New York City's Theater District, a 1984 discussion about Eddie Gaedel's Browns game led to the notion that the Gaedel caper might be developed into a skit for Diamonds, a baseball revue that my friend Steve Martin was producing.

Not that Steve Martin. This Steve Martin was a marketing and advertising executive, and such an impassioned baseball fan that he once traveled to Germany to fungo a ball over the Berlin Wall.

For his Broadway show, Martin was hardly working on the cheap. His team included Betty Comden, Adolph Green and the Tony Award-winning director Harold Prince.

"See what you can give us about Gaedel, and we'll take a look," Martin told me.

In the 1950s, Prince had co-produced Damn Yankees, a musical baseball fable that was a rousing success. But my undoing with Diamonds was Prince, who confessed that he knew little about baseball. Martin was counting on baseball fans as a built-in audience, but for the show to have legs he also needed the non-fan. Prince's sensibilities, he thought, would be an asset.

But when Prince looked at my sketch, he didn't get it. Like Eddie Gaedel's mother, Prince didn't think a midget batting in a baseball game was man-bites-dog.

It's my word against Prince's, perhaps; this is my alibi for missing out on Broadway, and I'm stuck with it. Diamonds opened without my work, but at least Steve Martin paid me a kill fee and sent an invitation to the premiere.

The show ran for sixteen weeks, but they still took a bath. They needed Bill Veeck with Eddie Gaedel in front of the theater, hustling people in.

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