The Obit For Ernie Oravetz

Ernie Oravetz Was Baseball's Little Big Man

Published: Dec 6, 2006

By JIM TUNSTALL The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Ernie Oravetz went into the record book when he joined the Washington Senators as an outfielder in 1955, but it wasn't because of his baseball stats.

His claim to fame: He was the smallest player in the major leagues that year and one of the smallest regular-season players ever, according to He stood 5 feet 4 inches and weighed 145 pounds.

Even more remarkable - he was a basketball star in high school and the military.

"Moose, that's what they called him," his son Randy joked Tuesday.

Oravetz, who played pro ball until the mid-1960s and then worked for the post office for 30 years, died Sunday of pancreatic cancer. He was 74.

After high school in Johnstown, Pa., Oravetz played two seasons in Orlando and Chattanooga as a minor-leaguer.

"He got his draft notice and major-league contract the same day," his son said.

His two years of Army service included a tour in Germany, where he helped manage the football team and played baseball and basketball.

He was with the Senators in 1955 and 1956, batting .263 in 188 games. He earned $6,000, the rookie salary, each of those seasons, a 1985 Tampa Tribune article said.

Oravetz passed his passion for sports to his family. Randy is director of sports medicine at Florida State. Randy's son, Thomas, is a sophomore on FSU's baseball team.

Although Ernie lacked all-star statistics in his career, his little-big-man frame and outgoing personality won hundreds of friends, including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, his roommate with the Senators.

Oravetz's baseball cards haven't disappeared. They're selling on the Internet for $35 or more if autographed. "He was never a showman," his wife, Rose Marie, said. "He couldn't believe it last year when they asked if he would sign 250 bubble gum cards for $1,000."

ORAVETZ, Ernest "Ernie," 74, passed away December 3, 2006, in Tampa. Mr. Oravetz was born in Johnstown, Pa.

Mr. Oravetz played Minor League baseball in Orlando and Chattanooga, Tenn. After serving in the U.S. Army, he went on to play for the Washington Senators in 1955 and 1956. Upon retiring from baseball, he worked for the U.S. Postal service for 30 years. He loved watching his sons and daughters and grandchildren play baseball and be active in sports. They were quite good.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Rose Marie Minahan of Tampa; four sons, Randal Oravetz and his wife, Linda, of Tallahassee, Fla., Patrick Oravetz of Seffner, Fla., Mark Oravetz of Tampa, and Jon Oravetz and his wife, Cathy, of Spring Hill, Fla.; three daughters, Kathy Oravetz of Tampa, Jeanette Brooks and her husband, Ralph, of Tampa and Ann Marie Oravetz of Tampa; seven grandchildren Jonathan, Thomas, Ashley, Michael, Stephan, Patrick and Brandon; Ernie's sister, Joan, and her husband, George Schilling; and cousin, William Bender, and his wife, Marilyn.

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, December 6, 2006, at Christ the King Catholic Church, 821 S. Dale Mabry Highway. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Morning Star School, 210 E. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, FL 33612, and LifePath Hospice, 3010 W. Azeele St., Tampa, FL 33609.

The family would like to thank all the people who prayed for Ernie during his illness. The prayers were answered even though he passed away. He was at peace and never in any pain. We want to thank all the people who took care of him at Memorial Hospital and LifePath Hospice Care.