David Bruce: Height and Size Anecdotes

• Donald Davidson stood 5-foot-2 (since he was a little person, his business card measured only one inch by two inches) and spent 45 years in professional baseball — as clubhouse boy, publicist, assistant to the president, and traveling secretary. Once, he wore dark glasses and walked through a crowd with the general manager of the Braves, John Quinn. Mr. Davidson was recognized by people in the crowd every few feet, to the amusement of Mr. Quinn, who asked someone, “Tell me, how did you recognize Donald in his dark glasses?” Once, Mr. Davidson asked a couple of baseball players to punch the button for floor 26 in an elevator because he wasn’t tall enough to reach that high. They wouldn’t do it, so Mr. Davidson rode the elevator down to the lobby, and complained to the manager, “How many times have I told you never to give me a room above the third floor?”

• Artie Stander was a radio and TV comedy writer of unparalleled chutzpah. A short man, he once said, “I could have been tall, but I turned it down.” Once, Mr. Stander was writing with Charlie Isaacs. Mr. Isaacs used to pace the floor and occasionally jump up and touch the ceiling with his fingertips. Mr. Stander watched him for a while, then said, “I can do that.” Short as he was, he attempted to jump up and touch the ceiling several times, failing each time, then finally gave it up, putting the blame for his failure on his habit of smoking cigarettes. Another time, his wife saw him standing on the seat of the toilet, peeing down into the bowl. He explained, “I just wanted to see what it felt like to be (the very tall) Gary Cooper.”

• Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker got to know playwright Robert E. Sherwood (later to become twice a Pulitzer Prize-winner for Idiot’s Delightand Abe Lincoln in Illinois) because he asked to go to lunch with them — and to walk between them. They soon found out why. Mr. Sherwood was six-feet-seven, and some midgets near where he worked used to lie in wait for him and walk him to his restaurant while shouting things like “How’s the weather up there?”

• At one time, pulpits were custom built to suit the height of the local preacher. This could lead to problems when guest preachers stood up to preach. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., was a short guest preacher at a Church of Christ, but the regular preacher, Rube Porter, was over six feet tall. When preacher Wallace stood in back of the podium, no one could see him, so he said, “If you don’t see me anymore, remember that ‘faith comes by hearing,’ Romans 10:17.”

• President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was a tall man; so was Judge Kelly of Pennsylvania. When the two met, they shook hands, then they compared heights: Lincoln was 6-foot-4, and Judge Kelly was 6-foot-3. Judge Kelly then said, “Pennsylvania bows to Illinois. My dear man, for years my heart has been aching for a President that I could look up to, and I’ve at last found him.”

• Until 1954, when he was drafted, New York Yankee Billy Martin, a small man, wore No. 12. During his military service, No. 1 became available, and it was waiting for him when he returned to professional baseball. According to Mr. Martin, the Yankee clubhouse manager had saved the number for him: “He said my back wasn’t big enough for two numbers.” (Note: Mr. Martin was 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, so he must have been small for a major leaguer.)

• As a young boy, ballet student Alexander Godunov was short, even considering his age. After being told that tomato juice would make him grow, he began to drink gallons of it. He also heard that sleeping on a soft bed would keep him short, so he began to sleep on boards. Something worked — he grew to be over six feet tall.

• Prime Minister David Lloyd George (5-foot-6) was a small man. At a political meeting, he was once introduced in this way: “I had expected to see Mr. Lloyd George a big man in every sense, but you see for yourself he is quite small in stature.” Mr. Lloyd George replied, “In North Wales we measure a man from the chin up. You evidently measure from the chin down.”

• Playwright Robert Sherwood was very tall. (He was 6-foot-7 in an era before seven footers became common in the NBA.) Once humorist Robert Benchley was asked if he knew Mr. Sherwood. Mr. Benchley stood on a chair, raised his hand in the air, and said, “Why, I’ve known Bob Sherwood since he was thishigh.”

• Katherine Hepburn was taller than Spencer Tracy. When they first met, she wore high heels to make herself even taller to intimidate him, but he refused to be intimidated. After Ms. Hepburn said, “I’m afraid I’m a little tall for you, Mr. Tracy,” he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll soon cut you down to my size.”

• Once a newspaper editor decided to print a photograph of an unusually tall man. On page 1, the photograph showed the man from his head to his knees. At the bottom of the photograph was the line, “Continued on page 10.” On page 10 was the rest of the photograph, showing the man from his knees to his feet.

• Robert E. Sherwood was wounded during World War I — he was shot in the legs and suffered from gas poisoning. Robert Benchley was surprised that Mr. Sherwood, who was 6-feet-7 inches tall — was shot in the legs, so he developed the theory that Mr. Sherwood had been lying on the ground and waving his legs in the air. Mr. Sherwood denied this.

• Figure skater Scott Hamilton is only 5-foot-3 inches tall — the result of Schwachmann’s syndrome, a rare disease which inhibits growth in children. Mr. Hamilton’s short stature didn’t hurt his skating career at all — he won four consecutive world championships and an Olympic gold medal and has a flourishing professional career.

• Many towering musical geniuses were short. Franz Schubert was 5-foot-2, Igor Stravinsky was 5-foot-3, and Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Arnold Schoenberg all were 5-foot-4.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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