Let me preface this by saying that I fondly remember Harry Chappas of the White Sox, 5’5″ cover boy of Sports Illustrated (who was told to claim he was only 5’3″), and the day that the legitimately 5’4″ Freddie Patek slammed three homers and a double at Fenway. Baseball is still the sport where height matters least; Patek was on four division winners and two All-Star teams and was as tough as they come.

So, when I see the Twins put their 5’3″ outfield infield prospect out of the University of Louisville, Chris Cates, into tonight’s exhibition against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, I’m delighted.

But they had to give him the Test Batting Helmet? 



Okay, so the name of Rick Moranis’s character in “Spaceballs” was what?


“Dark Helmet” – that’s right. Or you prefer the Great Gazoo?


How much guts does this guy have to show you, Twins? 

You give him uniform number 90, you pose him for a publicity photo alongside 7’1″ Dutch pitcher Loek Van Mil? And then you give him the helmet?


To say nothing of the apparent Squish Danger:


Oh, man. Mr. Cates should be admitted to Cooperstown just for acquitting himself professionally and not taking this thing off and hitting the equipment manager over the head with it.

The late,
great Mets’ broadcaster Bob Murphy reported this anecdote during the 1967
season. On July 25
th at Candlestick Park, the Mets and Giants were
scoreless in the bottom of the third. Jesus Alou and Bobby Etheridge singled,
then Willie Mays lined a sure two-base hit, scoring Alou. But as Etheridge
chugged in to third, Mays
stopped at first. He explained later that he’d done
so deliberately, so that the Mets wouldn’t walk clean-up man Jim Ray Hart to
pitch instead to first baseman Jack Hiatt. Hart promptly hit a three-run homer
off Jack Fisher. The Giants won, 5-4.



    Wow.. that poor guy! Too funny. I imagine that’s how I’d look in that helmet – I’m five feet tall… just. How did he manage to see out from under that thing? That’s the second time tonight that I’ve laughed out loud at something I saw on your blog (the other one was a description of a massage). Thanks, Keith! The Great Gazoo?? Too funny! Love your sense of humor. 🙂

  2. atuvera

    If not “The Great Gazoo”, how about the Loyal Order Of Water Buffalos ? Needs a couple of horns though.
    The Twins looked really together tonight, the Red Sox…….uhmmm, not so much. Nice to see you back on Countdown monday evening. Sorry about your Dad. May all your memories of him be warm and helpful, and go watch more baseball, that’ll help. Oh Yea, and GO TWINS !!!!


    The Great Gazoo??? Oooohhh, very funny, Keith! LOL.

    I’m a towering 5’3? myself, but my feet hit the ground, nevertheless. And Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) is only 5’4?. I wouldn’t date him though . . . way too short, even with the cool Darth Vader helmet.

    Is there any truth to the theory that some tall guys like women of small stature because they were never allowed to play with dolls when they were boys?


    Looking at these comments, I’m starting to feel like a giant around here, what with me being over 5’8″ in athletic shoes. I hit the 5’0″ mark when I was ten, and was 5’6″ by the age of eleven. Oh, well, at least Keith’s taller than I am! (And, like Keith, my head’s a bit larger than most. So shut up, Letterman. A larger head just gives the brain more working room, LOL!)

    Those pictures are all funny, but that last picture is hilarious. The helmet’s practically bigger than he is! I wish I had the software to make a flash cartoon…I’d have an animated Cates walk up to the equipment manager, throw that helmet at the guy’s head, then walk off without saying a word. 🙂

    Speaking of short people in sports, one of my favorite former basketball players is Muggsy Bogues, who was all of 5’3″ in the sport of giants. It was especially hilarious when these huge defenders would double-team him!

    Glad to see you’re immersing yourself in baseball, Keith. I’m rooting for Cornell in college hoops this week, too. Blessings to you and yours.


    Great Gazoo, Indeed. I know we we’re up 7-1, but my question is, is THIS how they plan to solve the closer problem? Send Case in and hope the other team winds up laughing so hard, they won’t be able to bat in the 9th…..wait a minute, it just might work!!

    Even better, it’s bringing back memories of a three game trip to old County Stadium in Milwaukee circa 1988 when a 8 year old Tommy Kelly, appropriately wearing 10.5 on his uniform, has with his dad and helping the bat boys. Ah, nothing makes for good TV than watching the manager’s boy shagging bat wearing…… guessd it……Kent Hrbek’s batting helmit.

  6. njbaseball

    It’s unfortunate for him, but he’s most likely wearing it because minor leaguers are required to wear the more protective helmets this year, and since he’ll have to hit in it all season, might as well get ready now.


    I’m back, because I managed to find this image I was looking for…which was brought to mind by this blog entry. IMHO, it ranks with the images above, as one of the funniest MLB photos I’ve ever seen.
    The “Hello Kitty Hell” blog links to this picture of Shawn Kelley, which is as hilarious as the sight of poor Chris Cates being overwhelmed by his helmet:  

    IIRC, this has something to do with a Mariners tradition of the rookie having to carry a backpack around. As much as I like Hello Kitty, this amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. I mean, they could have at least gotten him one in blue, instead of pink. After all, pink clashes with the uniform color…!


    I’ll bet you that his childhood dreams did not include being part of the spring training tall man/short man circus show. It sounds like he’s a good sport. That helmet is just too much.

    I’m glad you got down there. This last year was rough for a lot of us. Have fun. I know you will. I’m not even sure why I’m getting into it. You are in your element. I will add this, those of us who love and respect what you do? We don’t expect to see you back anytime before opening day. xoxo


    Extra special kudos to you for the Mel Brooks reference! And, the person who made him wear that is a “Major ###hole” – just part of the family. ;D


    That bites…….

    We miss you when you aren’t on Countdown, Keith. : (
    It was great to see you on Monday.

  11. hartbreak

    PR conspiracy: Start out with the smallest bloke you can manage, and then the rest of the players look slightly less ridiculous wearing them, by comparison.

    I think I’m onto something.


    @unpaka27, I love the picture of the guy with the “Hello Kitty” backpack – poor guy! But hey…. it won’t hurt him to carry that around for a bit. Also, when I used to work at the Key Arena (or the old Coliseum, before it was remodeled), I ran a concession stand there as part of a high-school fundraiser. One evening, before the public was let in, I was done prepping the stand, and peeked into the Arena itself, where a few of the players were practicing, and watched Muggsy getting ready for the game. It was amazing… he was doing all kinds of stuff, and using all kinds of fancy footwork – and wasn’t even really paying attention. He was just that good at it. Always liked Muggsy Bogues… anyone who could get into the NBA at his height had to have some serious perseverance to have gotten that far at his height. The other story that comes to mind is one about me – I was working on Valentine’s Day (shut up – I was manager and I had to!) 🙂 and while we were prepping in the stand, the tech staff was prepping for their end of things… so while the players practiced, up on the monitors you could see hearts and flowers on the screen. At one point they had Shawn Kemp’s face framed by a lacy heart (no doubt something they would use on fans, to highlight couples in the crowd). I turned to my group (teenagers and their parents), and started to say “Oh look – Shawn Kemp has a heart on his face!” Only I didn’t get that far. That blasted internal censor stopped me – right after the word “on”… and then when I realized where exactly it was that I had stopped talking, my brain screamed at me “Don’t stop there!! Not THERE!” (Insert deep sigh here) Fortunately, the people I worked with respected me a lot, so there wasn’t TOO much laughing… at least not right to my face. 🙂 But yeah, you have to have a good sense of humor to get by.

  13. phillygirl64

    Does this equipment manager moonlight as wardrobe consultant to Markos Moulitsas?

    glad to see you enjoying spring training…may the Schwartz be with you

  14. rochdalian

    With reference to the comment from a Researcher’s Notebook: That’s as good a reason as to why Willie Mays was the greatest ballplayer ever to walk this earth. Who else would think of doing something like that?


    If you can remember that at one time Freddie Patek had 3 homers and a double at Fenway and can produce the stats documentation to back it up, I have to ask: what the hell are you doing on a cable network news show? You should be doing something baseball-related, in my opinion. Jan in Santa Clarita

  16. nightowl4music

    LOL at the Spaceballs and Flintstones references. That’s one freaking big helmet 😉

    I’m only 5’3″ myself……I can just picture that fella carting around a sousaphone *chuckles*……mainy because I’ve voluntarily done that myself(5 football seasons, 2 in high school, 3 college) 😉 Definitely not an easy thing to do when it gets really windy outside 🙂

  17. nightowl4music

    @ Hartbreak *fist pound* back 😀 I haven’t played one in 25 years……..still remember how, just lack the air for it anymore, as well as having some nerve injury from a repetitive stress injury that resulted in a severe case of neuritis in my right hand.

  18. historymike

    Since I go all the way up to 5’8″, or so it says on my driver’s license, I am reminded of when Steve Garvey was listed as 5’10” and someone–I am pretty sure it was Jay Johnstone–said that was when he stood on first base.

    Anyway, the Pirates once had a shortstop named Clem Koshorek in 1952, the year they lost 112 games–the team Joe Garagiola used to say was in the ninth year of Branch Rickey’s five-year plan. Koshorek, Retrosheet tells us, was 5’4 1/2″. At Forbes Field, there was a little swale in the outfield. Supposedly, one day, Bob Prince said, “Pop up behind short. Koshorek goes out, up the hill … where did he go?”


    Good to see Patek mentioned somewhere…anywhere. I still have vivid memories of his performance in the ’77 ALCS.

  20. rovership27


    Minor leaguers are required to wear those helmets this season. That’s probably why he’s wearing it. No, seriously.

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