It happened in Baltimore first: the original baseball midget

August 18, 1991|By Don Markus

Eddie Gaedel might be the most famous midget ever to appear in a professional baseball game, but he was neither the first nor the most successful. Forty-six years before Gaedel's appearance in St. Louis, a local midget actor named Jerry Sullivan showed up in Baltimore in the uniform of the Buffalo Bisons.

With the Bisons trailing their Eastern League opponents, 10-2, in the top of the ninth inning on Sept. 18, 1905, Sullivan was escorted to the plate by teammate Rube Kissinger. With no objections from plate umpire Charlie Simmer or Orioles manager Hugh Jennings, Sullivan faced Baltimore pitcher Fred Burchell.

According to accounts of the game the next day in The Sun, as well in an article written by Buffalo-based baseball historian Joe Overfield, Burchell laughed heartily and delivered the first pitch. High. Ball one. The second pitch he tossed barely six inches from the ground, but Sullivan lofted a blooper that fell in for a single to left.

Sullivan, who was appearing in a production of "Simple Simon Simple" at the Baltimore Academy of Music at the time, received an ovation from the crowd. He then took a wide lead off first and Burchell tried to pick him off. But Sullivan got back safely by dashing between the legs of first baseman Tim Jordan, who, at 6 feet 1, was nearly twice Sullivan's size.

So shaken was he by the incident, Burchell surrendered several more hits and threw a wild pitch five feet over the catcher's head, and Sullivan later scored. The Bisons scored four times, but lost, 10-6. The Sun reported the next day that Sullivan "was unable to pull the Bisons out of the tall timber to which they had been driven by the chirping Orioles."

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