As a rookie, Chappas is in no position to disagree with Veeck or Caray, but a knowledgeable member of the White Sox organization (?'?") confides, "Harry is really 5'5". Veeck wants people to think he's the smallest player in the majors. The publicity would make money for Chappas and for the club. Harry Caray told the kid he should go along with it unless somebody wants to pay him a lot of money for an official measurement. Chappas is uncomfortable with the whole situation, but he is staying quiet because he is afraid to make anybody mad."
Chappas' acquiescence has already forced him to participate in some demeaning photograph sessions. For one, he posed in the arms of a teammate, and for another he stooped inside a trunk. "I should have said no," Chappas admits, "but I know the club wants the publicity. That's not me, though. I'm not a salesman. It's like putting a dime in a nickel slot. It fits but it don't work. I want to be known as a quality ballplayer, not as a midget or a punk. I think I can create a lot of excitement on the field by being a complete player. There aren't very many of those around."
The White Sox' desire to lop a couple of inches off Chappas is particularly ironic because Chappas' lack of size almost prevented him from being a professional ballplayer. Baseball people, like most sports experts, invariably look at short people the way Randy Newman (5'11") did in a popular song of a while ago. "Short people got no reason to live," Newman wrote. "I don't want no short people 'round here." Newman, of course, was being satirical; baseball men really feel that way.
"It takes courage for a scout to recommend a small player," says White Sox Vice-President Roland Hemond (5'8"). "He's bound to be skeptical of a little man. I know if I can look down on a player, I wonder how good he really is."
A White Sox scout, Walt Widmayer (5'9�"), was very skeptical the day in 1974 he first saw Chappas work out with his Fort Lauderdale high school team. "He looked like such a little fellow I couldn't get very excited about him," Widmayer recalls. "A player his size is open to a lot of criticism. He has to be real good all the time. A 6'2" player can have an off day and not hurt himself."
Widmayer wasn't at all impressed with Chappas then, but his second look was a real stunner. "I went to see him play a game in Miami, and he hit the first pitch about 360 feet against the wind for a home run," says Widmayer. "I couldn't believe my eyes." Even with this clear evidence of little man, big stick, Widmayer still had reservations. The White Sox did draft Chappas in June of 1975, but in the 18th round as the 538th player selected. Instead of signing with Chicago, Chappas wisely decided to accept a scholarship to Miami Dade North Community College, which has sent 14 players into the majors, including Bucky Dent (5'11") and Mickey Rivers (5'10"). Chappas made such a favorable impression during the school's fall schedule that he was picked sixth by the White Sox in the January 1976 draft. After making All-America for his outstanding play in the spring season, he signed with Chicago for a $10,000 bonus.
If Chappas had been bigger, his bonus likely would have been bigger, too. His father says he remembers overhearing one American League scout say, "If that little shortstop were six feet, he'd be worth $100,000." Widmayer says one National League scout gave Chappas high marks in every department but refused to recommend him. "Why not?" Widmayer asked. "Ah, he won't catch the high line drive," the scout replied.
Such logic has kept a lot of little men out of baseball. The exceptions are few—oldtimers such as Wee Willie Keeler (5'4�") and modern players such as Albie Pearson (5'5"), who retired in 1966 after nine seasons, and Patek (5'4"). ( Pee Wee Reese, incidentally, was not a pee-wee at all—he stood all of 5'10".)
Lack of height never seemed to handicap those players, and Chappas doesn't consider it a problem for him, either. He knows he has a strong arm, fast feet and a durable, 150-pound body. "Once I take the field, my size doesn't matter," he says. "The only time I'd even think about it is if a brawl got started."
Chappas' father has the most logical view of the whole matter. "What difference does it make?" he says. "Harry is a hell of a lot bigger than the baseball."