Do dwarfs, midgets, and giants play baseball? Well, kind of, but not really...
Growth Hormone (GH) is responsible for long bone growth development in pre-pubescent humans, while also stimulating an increase in organ growth and muscle size. Without GH, our bodies would be about the same size as your average pygmy, who is incapable of GH production much like the family below.
But what if your body makes too much GH, or like certain baseball players, what if you happen to rub on some "cream" that may or may not have GH in it?
Gigantism results from too much GH production during childhood and the early teenage years. The result is long bones, extreme height, with large hands and feet like this guy.
While not necessarily fatal, gigantism causes lots of problems with the heart and other organs, so treatment during childhood is usually suggested.
So, if gigantism is the result of too much GH during childhood, what happens if you have too much GH as an adult? Well, something like this happens.
Since long bones (like the femur) in adults have stopped growing, GH primarily effects soft organs, the extremities such as the hands and feet, and cartilage tissue like the ear and nose. Here's an image of the overgrown feet of a man with too much adulthood GH.
The skull is also effected, and usually undergoes abnormal growth and expansion, deforming the individual and causing a myriad of problems including headaches, breathing problems due to an enlarged tongue, arthiritis, heart failure, and diabetes. The condition is called Acromegaly ("acro-" meaning extremities, and "megalos" meaning large) and can ultimately lead to death.
So, do you know any baseball players that suffered from a lack of GH? How about too much GH? Eddie Gaedal, known as the shortest man to ever play major league baseball, stood 3 feet 7 inches tall when he was allowed one plate appearance as part of a publicity stunt during a double header in 1951. Gaedal was an bona fide dwarf, who lacked proper GH secretion.
How about those giants in baseball? Well, there haven't been any recorded cases of true giants playing in the majors, but we've been led to believe that several self-induced acromegaly sufferers have taken the field in the past decade, including this Giant.
I think we can all agree that Barry Bonds has experienced some extreme growth since his days with the Pirates, but is he a real sufferer of acromegaly? In a book titled "Game of Shadows" written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, it was reported that Bonds not only has a larger head than he did during his 20's, but he also has larger feet. The book states that Bonds' hat size increased from a 7 1/4 to a 7 1/2, while his shoe size went from a 10 1/2 to a 13. Let's take a closer look and see if Bonds displays any of the common symptoms of high GH levels in adulthood.
From these pictures it's not easy to make a clear diagnosis, but if the allegations of increased skull and feet size are true, then the evidence suggests that Bonds probably used either GH or something that mimicked it's effects. The increased size of Bond's feet alone is a significant indication of elevated GH levels, while the current shape of his head looks a bit deformed and has a slight broad appearance around his cheeks and forehead similar to the deformation experienced by the man with acromegaly pictured below Bonds'. It's not my job to say whether Bonds did in fact use GH, but my gut feeling says that he did.
So, dwarfs in fact did play baseball, but giants have not. We've perhaps seen some players with self-induced acromegaly in the past decade or so, and that's close to a giant I guess. Either way, GH plays an important part in all our lives, whether we play baseball or not.