Ernie Oravetz Was Baseball's Little
Published: Dec 6, 2006
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 BaseballLibrary.com. 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."
Ernest "Ernie," 74, passed away December 3, 2006, in Tampa.
Mr. Oravetz was born in Johnstown, Pa.