As for the alltime little-guy team (see left), maybe Ray Dandridge, 5'7", of the Negro leagues should start at third and Ripper Collins, 5'9", of the old Gashouse Gang Cardinals at first (there are no Hall of Fame little-guy first basemen). You could put Joe Sewell, 5'6½", at third, but he was a shortstop, and Collins was the best third baseman before Pie Traynor.
Sewell was without peer at the little-guy specialty of not striking out. There were three Sewell brothers, and they must have been bred to make contact: Joe, a Hall of Famer, struck out only 114 times in 7,132 at bats; catcher Luke, 5'9", 307 times in 5,383; and pinch-hitter Tommy, 5'7½", managed not to fan in his only plate appearance. In 1927, the one year the brothers were all in the big leagues, they had 1,040 at bats with only 30 strikeouts.
The bench for the alltime little-guy team would include Maranville, Evers, Rizzuto, Richardson, Bobby Wallace (5'8"), Joe Tinker (5'9") and Pepper Martin (5'8"). We may be short, but we're deep. Incidentally, at least two little guys played every position in the big leagues: Kid Gleason (5'7"), 1888-1912, and Cesar Tovar, 5'9", 1965-76. At any rate, I'll bet this alltime team is stronger than any you could put together of guys 6'3" and taller. Except in pitching.
For my starting rotation I went with guys who were active for at least a few years after 1900. This shows, for one thing, how few little-guy pitchers there have been since baseball left its infancy. No 5'9"-or-under pitcher who played entirely in this century has made the Hall of Fame or won more than 218 games. Maybe the smallest aggregation in baseball history is that of prominent little-guy relievers: Roy Face may be the only one.
Less than 2% of all players in history have been shorter than 5'6½" Clark Griffith, the Old Fox, who in 1901 had one of the best years anybody of any size ever had. He managed the White Sox to a pennant while leading the league's pitchers in winning percentage, shutouts and relief wins, and batting (.303). In his career he played every position except catcher, and he made the Hall of Fame as a manager.
Bobby Shantz is one of the few pitchers after 1923 under 5'7"; in his last season, 1964, he was 7½ inches under the average pitcher's height. "It just became part of my name," he says today, "Little Bobby Shantz. I was never Bob. Everybody used to call me something. Even Casey Stengel, and he wasn't much bigger than I was [5'11" officially, but stooped], called me diminutive. He liked that word."
Another reason I tossed all those 19th-century Hall of Fame pitchers is that they weren't really such little guys for their day. (It's worth mentioning that Candy Cummings, 5'9", is credited with introducing the curveball, in 1866, which is the kind of angle a little guy would come up with.) Which is not to say that everybody was a little guy back then. The last time all nonpitchers averaged 5'9" or under was 1875. By 1907 nonpitchers were 5'10", and pitchers were almost 5'11½". By 1912, the average pitcher was almost 6'½", and the average nonpitcher was over 5'10½". Not until 1954 did the average height for nonpitchers hit six feet.
In the entire history of the game there has been only one player listed at 5'1", 11 at 5'3", 23 at 5'4", 43 at 5'5" and 154 at 5'6". Some of these superlittle guys had nicknames like Sparky, Topsy, the Flea, Cub, Shorty and Mighty Mite. Of pitchers there have been only three at 5'4", six at 5'5" and 18 at 5'6".
Of everybody, there has been only one Kirby Puckett. Shakespeare's Puck could turn himself into anything: "Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound, a hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire." Minnesota's Puck has turned himself into everything an every-day player can be.
What he has done is take traditional little-guy attributes, nimbleness and drive, and conjure with them. Nimbleness usually implies a lack of punch. As a 5'4" teenager growing up in Chicago, "I was puny," Puckett says. So he started lifting weights and knocking back protein drinks.