Eddie Gaedel, a Man of Stature

August 19, 2011 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

Sixty years ago today, baseball player Eddie Gaedel stepped to the plate for the only at-bat of his major league career. Standing just 3’7″ tall, he drew a walk on four straight pitches.

Why mention this on a math jokes blog? Gaedel’s uniform number was 1/8.

This reminds me of a math question that my friend Harold Reiter likes to use to start a class discussion about size of numbers.

Which of the following is the largest fraction?

1/2

1/4

1/6

1/8

It also reminds me of the priest who tells his congregation that he understands how difficult it is to tithe. “If you can’t afford to give 1/10 of your salary to the church,” he tells them, “then just give 1/9 or 1/8.”

Officially, Gaedel had 1 base‑on‑balls (BB) and 0 at-bats (AB). In baseball, a plate appearance does not offically count as an at-bat if the player is walked. This gave Gaedel an on-base percentage (OBP) of 1.000, the highest possible. As it turns out, he’s not the only player with an OBP of 1.000; nearly 30 others have accomplished the same feat.

The official formula for on-base percentage is

OBP = (H + BB + HBP) ÷ (AB + BB + HBP + SF)

where

  • H = hits
  • HBP = hits-by-pitch
  • SF = sacrifice flies

An interesting question is:

How can a player have a higher batting average than on-base percentage?

Though rare, it occasionally happens when a player has a relatively low number of at‑bats with few walks and several sacrifice flies. For instance, a player with 1 hit in 2 at-bats with a sacrifice fly would have a batting average of 0.500 and an on-base percentage of 0.333.

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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