We haven't looked at every sports league out there but Major League Baseball likely holds the honour as the league with the greatest difference in height between the shortest player and the tallest - 39 inches or 3'6".
This might surprise some especially when one considers that 7'7" NBA giant Manute Bol shared the court with 5'3" Muggsy Bogues - a difference of 28 inches.
But this difference isn't because some giant 8 footer played outfield for the Yankees but is due to the diminutive pinch hitter Eddie Gaedel.
On August 19, 1951, 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel stepped in as a pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) during the second game of their double header against the Detroit Tigers.
Pitcher Bob Cain faced with the difficulty of the smallest strike zone in history threw four straight balls leading to a walk for Eddie Gaedel who was then immediately replaced with pinch runner, Jim Delsing.
It would be Gaedel's first and only plate appearance and would put him into the record books on several accounts including:
For those wondering, the next shortest players in history come in at 5'3" with a total of 11 players to play at that height all of whom played before the 1960's.
Currently, the shortest player in the Majors is Astros second baseman Jose Altuve who is 5'5".
List of shortest active players (2012 MLB Season):
|Player||Position||Team||Height||Weight (LBS)||Draft Year||Drafted By|
|Jose Altuve||2B||Astros||5' 5"||168||2006||Astros|
|Tim Collins||P||Royals||5' 7"||171||2007||Blue Jays|
|Rafael Furcal||SS||Cardinals||5' 8"||187||1996||Braves|
|Jimmy Rollins||SS||Phillies||5' 8"||170||1996||Phillies|
|Chone Figgins||LF||Mariners||5' 8"||180||1997||Rockies|
|Mike Fontenot||2B||Phillies||5' 8"||170||2001||Orioles|
|Maicer Izturis||3B||Angels||5' 8"||175||1998||Indians|
|Dustin Pedroia||2B||Red Sox||5' 8"||165||2004||Red Sox|
|Matt Young||LF||Cardinals||5' 8"||175||2004||Braves|
|Johnny Giavotella||2B||Royals||5' 8"||184||2008||Royals|
|Josh Harrison||SS||Pirates||5' 8"||185||2008||Cubs|
|Tony Campana||CF||Cubs||5' 8"||165||2008||Cubs|
|Alexi Amarista||2B||Padres||5' 8"||150||2007||Angels|
|Adam Eaton||CF||Diamondbacks||5' 8"||184||2010||Diamondbacks|
While height is important and it's unlikely that we will ever see another 3 footer in the MLB there is an area where shorter players shine.
Of the 19 second basemen in the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are only two who are taller than six feet - Nap Lajoie and Ryne Sandberg.
One of the best, Joe Morgan nicknamed Little Joe, while only 5 feet 7 inches was able to put up 2,517 hits, 268 home runs and 1,113 runs batted in.
Height is beneficial for pitchers, as it allows them to generate pitch speed, playing second base requires agility and quick reflexes where a lower centre of gravity is an asset when playing defense at second base.
Interested in the shortest players in other leagues: