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Larry Keith
March 19, 1979
Whether rookie Shortstop Harry Chappas is or isn't the smallest big-leaguer is of little concern. The really big question is can he help Chicago pull up its Sox and win
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March 19, 1979

It's Not Only A Game Of Inches

Whether rookie Shortstop Harry Chappas is or isn't the smallest big-leaguer is of little concern. The really big question is can he help Chicago pull up its Sox and win

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As a matter of fact, Chappas is bigger than a lot of God's creatures, including the average gnome (15 centimeters), the world's smallest man (28") and past and present notables such as James Madison (5'4"), Toulouse-Lautrec (4'6") and Truman Capote (5'3"). More important, he also is big enough to overlook the slighting remarks of others. Here is a recent sampling:

?Veeck, while watching Kessinger and Chappas work out: "There's the long and the short of it."

?Hemond, describing Chappas' minor league background: "After we sent him from Double A back to A, he grew up a little. Well, you know, not physically."

?Teammate Ron Blomberg (6'1"): "The first time I saw him I thought he was the bat boy. He's a nice little boy."

Chappas has put up with such condescension for a long time. "Smaller guys are put down sometimes, but I guess that sounds like I'm pulling for equal rights," he says. "It doesn't really bother me anymore. I've learned to ignore it. I might laugh just to go along, but it doesn't absorb. I've never felt I was unusual so I don't know why other people do. As long as I'm wearing a major league uniform, I don't care what anybody says."

Sports has always been Chappas' equalizer. (He was a wide receiver on his high school football team.) His father started him off early in baseball, tossing him a plastic ball to hit when he was three. By the time he was eight, he was the youngest player on his Little League team. In fact, Chappas has been just about the youngest and smallest member of every team he has ever played on. He started for his high school club as a ninth-grader and played semipro ball with men in their 20s and 30s when he was 17. "Being small makes you more aggressive and more ambitious," he says. "My friends called me 'the little giant.' "

In 1976, his first pro season, the little giant did respectably enough, hitting .262 and stealing 40 bases with Appleton. But the next year, at Knoxville in Double A, he slumped to .231 and 20 steals. That sent him back to Appleton for the 1978 season. At first, Chappas says, he was so depressed he felt like quitting. But after accepting the change he helped Apple-ton to 101 victories and won the Blue Jays' most-popular-player award. Then he was called up to Chicago.

Caray led the campaign to promote Chappas. The White Sox were struggling along in sixth place at the time, and the broadcaster felt Chappas might relieve the boredom. "If he had flopped he wouldn't have been doing any worse than anybody else," Caray says. "As it turned out, for the last month of the season he was the star of the team."

However, 20 games in September are just that: 20 games in September. The jump from Class A to the major leagues is about the longest a player can make, and if Chappas isn't capable of starting, the White Sox no doubt will send him back to the minors for more seasoning. "I hate to see a young player like him sit on the bench," says Kessinger.

Chappas believes he's ready to start, but would gladly accept a utility role to stay in Chicago. "I'm very confident in myself," he says. "If the club doesn't think I'm ready to play every day, I think I'd be ideal for pinch-hitting, pinch-running or late-inning defense. I want to prove to the skeptics that there is room for the little guy. I could give others some hope. I'd be somebody they could look up to."

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