FORT WAYNE – Until a muggy Wednesday evening inside Parkview Field, Kyle Gaedele had been a .238-slap-hitting left fielder with good speed and a familiar last name.
He is the great nephew of Eddie Gaedel, the 3-foot-7 dwarf whose brush with baseball fame came in 1951 when he was a pinch hitter with the St. Louis Browns.
But for this one morning, the young Gaedele (some members of the family didn’t drop the last “e”) wakes up as a short-lived power hitter, thanks to his two home runs that led the TinCaps to a 5-1 victory Wednesday night over the South Bend Silver Hawks.
He came into the evening with a pair of homers and proceeded to double the number with two swings – one leading off the fourth and the other to begin the sixth. And neither could be classified as cheap, since both were line drives.
“The first pitch was a fastball up,” Gaedele said. “The second was a curve ball. He left that one up, too.
“It’s been a pretty tough year power-wise, but you’ve got to go up there and stay consistent and keep positive.”
Since the start of the second half in the Midwest League, the positive vibe is running with the TinCaps (19-12, 50-51), who not only ended a three-game losing streak to South Bend (16-15, 51-50) but have won six of their last seven games.
Closer Matt Stites came in to finish things off in the ninth but gave up three consecutive singles, which enabled South Bend to bring the tying run to the plate. But Stites struck out the next two batters, then got the final out with a weak ground ball to second base.
The Silver Hawks cut into a 4-0 deficit with an unearned run in the top of the sixth, but Gaedele answered.
The 6-3, 220-pound Gaedele had grown up in Arlington Heights, Ill., and attended Valparaiso, where, as a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, he was the highest-drafted player in school history.
Although he hit the TinCaps’ first home run of the season on April 16 against Dayton, he had managed just one other since Wednesday’s explosion. He’s better known around the Midwest League for his base-stealing ability, having swiped 15 this season and was 9 for 9 last season in Eugene, Ore.
The story of his great uncle is one he has told and re-told; of how the great promoter and Browns owner Bill Veeck had the diminutive Gaedel crouch in the batter’s box as he faced Detroit pitcher Bob Cain. After he drew a walk, Gaedel was replaced by a pinch runner, and his major league career was through. But his legacy lives on, 61 years later.
His uniform, with the number of 1/8 , is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“It’s history, man,” Gaedele said. “It’s known in major league baseball forever. I’m proud of it.”
It’s mostly the older people, he said, who ask about his name, and wonders if there is a connection. And so he tells them the family link, and “the pretty cool story.”