Lasorda, at any rate, has some little guy in him. "When I was playing," he says, "somebody asked me, 'How do you feel, a little guy pitching to big guys?' 'How do I feel?' I said. 'I feel like a dime next to a bunch of pennies. Who's worth more?'
"Little guys—they kill you in the World Series," Lasorda continues. "That Lemke, that Doyle in 78...."
They'll do that, all right. Actually, the New York Yankees' Brian Doyle, who helped kill Lasorda's Dodgers in the '78 Series, was 5'10" (his brother Denny, who made a big throwing error for the Boston Red Sox in the 75 Series, was 5'9"), but Bucky Dent, who did the Dodgers even more damage in 78, was 5'9".
Oh, let us sing of big-game little guys: scrappy, can't-do-anything-but-beat-you Eddie (the Brat) Stanky, 5'8", kicking the ball out of 5'6" Phil (Scooter) Rizzuto's glove in '51; 5'6" where-the-hell-did-he-come-from Al Gionfriddo robbing big guy Joe DiMaggio of deep-center extra bases in '47; brainy Johnny (the Crab) livers. 5'9", hollering for the ball when Fred Merkle failed to touch second base in 1908; 5'7½" Sandy Amoros saving the '55 Series for the Dodgers with a spectacular running catch; 5'9" Bobby Richardson going little-guy-Series wild in '64.
And let's hear it for Wee Willie Keeler and Jigger Statz and Bitsy Mott and Dom (the Little Professor) DiMaggio and Claude (Little All Right) Ritchey and not only Rabbit Maranville but also Rabbit Warstler and Rabbit Glaviano and Rabbit Garriott and Rabbit Robinson—and, more recently, the White Sox Smurfs. (Last year the White Sox had seven players at 5'9" or thereabouts. Tim Raines admitted to 5'8"; Craig Grebeck, Warren Newson and Cora to 5'7". Ozzie Guillen, Lance Johnson and Scott Fletcher were listed at 5'11", but they didn't look appreciably bigger than the others. When Raines arrived in the clubhouse last spring after 10 lonesome-little-guy years in Montreal, he looked around and said, "They're all like me, a bunch of Smurfs.")
The transcendent Puckett, for whom height has not been fate, stands on the shoulders of many small giants. Before we can put Puckett in perspective, we must summon all the spirits of the short.
On Aug. 19, 1951, Bill Veeck, then owner of the St. Louis Browns, shocked traditionalists by sending midget Eddie Gaedel, 3'7", to the plate. Gaedel went into an exaggerated crouch—since he had never batted before, the umpire had to accept that as his natural stance—and walked on four pitches. He gave his pinch runner a pat on the fanny.
"Man," Gaedel told another Brownie on the bench. "I felt like Babe Root."
"I won't mind if they put 'Me helped the little man' on my tombstone," Veeck said later. After the game Gaedel went up to the Sportsman's Park press box. Bob Broeg, the St. Louis sportswriter, set him on the edge of a table to be interviewed. "The thing I remember about him so vividly," Broeg wrote years later, "is how beautifully dressed the guy was. He had on a perfectly tailored brown suit and a yellow shirt, open at the collar. I said to him, "Do you realize that you are now what every one of us [writers] wishes we were—an ex-big leaguer?"
"Well,I guess that hadn't hit him yet. He kind of straightened up and pulled out his chest. Then, without saying a word, he hopped off the table, walked out and left town. I never saw him again."