MLB pitchers are some of the tallest pro athletes on the planet. These towering giants routinely clock in over 6’4”, with some of the best to ever do it, like Randy Johnson, scraping the sky at nearly seven feet tall.
Their lanky builds, wide wingspans and giant stride-lengths work like a medieval trebuchet, launching the baseball at mach speeds.
But it’s not just pitchers who use their size to throw the ball or drive it out of the park — the majority of pro baseball players these days are well over six feet tall.
But who are the shortest MLB players in history? And with so much going in favor of taller players, is there even any room for the little guys in baseball?
You May Also Like…
Are you enjoying this article? You might want to read this one next:
Don't worry, it opens in a new window 😉
The answer is a resounding yes!
The 16 Shortest MLB Players of All Time
Here they are…
1. Eddie Gaedel
Bet you didn’t think the shortest player to ever play in a Major League game would clock in at under four feet tall!
The legend of Eddie Gaedel is a tall tale indeed, with the 3’7” player brought in for just one professional at bat as part of a publicity stunt in 1951. The number he wore on his back? “⅛.”
Still, he managed to draw a walk in his lone plate appearance, and though his time in the MLB was only a gimmick, his family remains proud of the Gaedel’s place in baseball history.
2. Stubby Magner
Another serious trailblazer at the position, Magner stood head and shoulders above the likes of Gaedel, but was only 5’3”.
(Most of the best players, even at the time, were at least 5’11”, including the legendary Ty Cobb who stood at 6’1”.)
His baseball career wasn’t long lived — he only appeared in 13 career games during the 1911 season — but the impact of his presence was felt for decades afterward.
3. Pompeyo “Yo-Yo” Davalillo
Officially named Pompeyo, it was his teammates that went on to give Davalillo his memorable nickname of Yo-Yo.
As far as the annals of baseball history are concerned, Davalillo is in a tight race for the second shortest player in history (no one can measure up to Eddie Gaedel), but he’s almost as well known for being just the fourth Venezuelan player in the MLB.
In 19 career games, Yo-Yo piled up a respectable .293 batting average and 2 RBIs.
4. “Wee Willie” Keeler
The first Hall of Famer on our list, and he stood at only 5’4” — one of the shortest Hall of Famers in any professional sport!
His impact on the game was monumental, even if his size was not. Known for exceptional plate discipline and a magnificent knack for making contact with nearly every pitch, Keeler still owns the lowest strike-out percentage in history.
He was also an exceptional bunter, and not only pioneered the art of the bunt, he inspired some rule changes to prevent hitters from fouling off too many pitches with bunts.
Many of his records still stand despite Keeler retiring after the 1910 season.
5. Freddie Patek
Known as one of the scrappiest MLB players of all time, Freddie Patek didn’t have a lot of size or power, but he more than made up for it with heart and love for the game.
Patek was the shortest player in the league for most of his career, but he worked it to his advantage quite often. An exceptional base stealer and defender, “The Cricket” as he was known, was an incredible asset on every team he played for.
He finally hung it up after 14 MLB seasons, notching three All-Star bids and being named to the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame.
6. Rabbit Maranville
Though he played long before the towering, athletic marvels of the 21st century, Maranville was considered greatly undersized when he came into the league in 1913.
His talent, however, was undeniable. A terrific defender and notorious class clown, Maranville carved out an astounding 23-year career in the big leagues — a mark that wouldn’t be bested until Pete Rose came along some 50 years later.
One of the shortest shortstops to ever play the game, Rabbit piled up over 2,600 career hits, 28 home runs, a MVP runner-up season and even a World Series win in his sophomore season.
7. Bobby Shantz
Pitchers are usually the tallest guys on the diamond, so it pretty much shocked the entirety of the baseball world when Bobby Shantz came onto the scene in 1949 and started lighting up batters left and right.
5'6″ is remarkably short for a MLB pitcher, and it makes Shantz one of the shortest pitchers of all time.
But what's even more surprising than the fact that Shantz got a chance to pitch at all considering his height was the fact that he kept doing it — year after year.
In fact, the pint-sized Shantz pitched well for over a decade, compiling a record of 119-99 to go with over 1,000 strikeouts.
Not too shabby.
8. Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson
A lot of shorter pro athletes succeed by zigging when their taller counterparts zag. They’re quick, scrappy and agile to make up for what they might lack in brute strength.
Not Hack Wilson. Though he stood only 5’6” and weighed around 190 pounds, he was an incredible power hitter throughout his 12 year career.
During the 1930 season, the squatty outfielder cranked out an unheard of 56 homers — a record that stood for nearly 70 year — and almost 200 RBIs.
It’s one of the best hitting seasons ever and wasn’t matched until the PED-fueled Sosa-McGwire home run duel that came almost decades later.
9. Phil Rizzuto
Rizzuto, at only 5’6”, earns a spot as one of the best short MLB players of all time, but you’ll just as easily find him on most lists of the best shortstops of all time — regardless of height.
A defensive wizard, Rizzuto was an anchor for a Yankees team that went on to win seven World Championsionships during his 13 years with the team.
A slightly above average hitter with a knack for getting on base, Rizzuto really shined on defense — his 1217 career double plays turned still ranks in the top 20 all time at his position.
10. Joe Sewell
After a tragic and unlikely beginning to his MLB career (Sewell was called up to the majors after another shortstop on the Cleveland Indians was killed by a pitch during a game), Sewell went on to make the most of his opportunity.
Though he wasn’t necessarily known for his defensive play, the undersized Sewell was a master at the plate.
He owns the second lowest career strikeout rate in MLB history, behind only Willie Keener (another short guy on our list), along with the single season record for his excellent plate discipline in 1932 when he only struck out three times the whole year!
11. “Sliding” Billy Hamilton
A world-class hitter and an exceptional base stealer, Sliding Billy could really do it all.
OK, so maybe he didn’t pack a ton of power, with just 40 home runs in 14 MLB seasons, but Hamilton was otherwise an offensive powerhouse throughout his career. To this day, he owns the record for most runs scored in a single season with 198 in 1894 — the same year he batted over .400.
He’s also still third in career stolen bases with 914, a spot the Hall of Famer has clung to for a mind-boggling 100-plus years.
12. José Altuve
A more modern entry to the list, Altuve came into the major leagues in 2011 as a second baseman for the Houston Astros.
Standing at just 5’6” amidst the giants of today’s game, Altuve hasn’t let his height hold him back.
Since his rookie year, he’s compiled an outstanding resume that includes six All-Star bids, a World Series championship, a Gold Glove award, three AL batting champion seasons and two seasons as the AL’s leading base stealer.
Altuve is still young and quite sure to keep filling that resume out for years to come, with a spot in Cooperstown likely waiting for him when he decides to hang it up.
13. Joe Morgan
Did you know that one of the best second basemen of all time was only 5’7”?
Scratch that, a lot of people (including the folks in Cooperstown) think Joe Morgan is one of the best MLB players of all time, period.
Unlike some of the guys on this list, Morgan wasn’t a specialty player. He didn’t carve out a role in the league just stealing bases or playing great defense.
He really did everything at the highest level, from hitting, to hitting with power, to locking down the middle of the field on defense.
When all was said and done for “Little Joe,” he had tallied 10 All-Star Bids, won two World Series and been named Gold Glove recipient a whopping five times.
14. Mookie Betts
Though a bit taller than some of the other heroes on this list, Betts deserves a mention for displaying sheer dominance throughout his young career despite measuring in at just 5’9”.
He exploded onto the major league scene in 2016, playing right field for the Boston Red Sox, and has quite literally taken the league by storm.
There’s no other way of putting in — Mookie Betts is a rare phenom.
Consider these career accolades for the 6-year pro…
He’s been named to four All-Star Teams, won a World Series, been named AL MVP, been awarded the Gold Glove award four times, has won Defensive Player of the Year and was the AL’s batting champion in 2018.
Last, but not least, he's earned his way into the exclusive 30-30 club (for players with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season).
Talk about a win for the short guys.
15. Dustin Pedroia
In the modern MLB, it’s seemed for years that players were only getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
That was, of course, with the small exception of a second baseman named Dustin Pedroia who came into the league in 2006. He stood at only 5’9” — short for any era — and quickly proved he belonged in a big man’s game.
Simply put, Pedroia has been a rock at second for the Boston Red Sox for what seems like an eternity. He’s lived through championship seasons and rock-bottom losses. The man is practically an institution.
An excellent hitter who knows how to get on base, a solid defender and a clubhouse leader, Pedroia is a good bet to reach the Hall of Fame whenever he decides to call it a career.
16. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
Rounding out the list is ol’ Pudge Rodriguez, who deserves a mention for being one of the best defensive players in MLB history despite standing a few inches shorter than most of his counterparts.
Just how good was Pudge behind the plate? He won an unrivaled 13 Gold Glove awards over the course of his career. He also remains the all-time leader in putouts as a catcher and was the best of his era at pegging potential base stealers.
Pudge was no slouch with a bat in his hands, either, with a strong .296 career average and 311 home runs.
In 2017, he was a no-brainer selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Though you might not know it from watching the MLB lately, baseball isn’t all about giant athletes manufacturing home runs and fastballs.
Shorter players have always been able to excel in the league. Some of them are quick and crafty base stealers. Others are well-built studs who pack more power than their frame indicates.
And others, like the undersized Joe Morgan and Mookie Betts, can seemingly do it all.
Whenever it feels like the prototypical baseball player has reached a new ridiculous standard of height, you’ll always be able to count on a little guy with big talent to come in and shake things up.
Who did we leave out? Who are the best short or undersized MLB players of all time? Comment below!