Forty years ago, on April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees stepped into the batters box against Luis Tiant. Blomberg walked, becoming the first designated hitter.
The designated hitter rule was to be a three-year experiment. It was born of panic and impatience among American League owners who couldn’t abide the pitching dominance of the time. It is now so rooted in the game that it will never be abolished. Because of increased inter-league play, I think it will be adopted soon by the National League, destroying the last bastion of tactics and strategy.
I have resigned myself to the existence of the DH and inter-league play, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I hate them and always will. One of the reasons I despise the DH is the very reason that many fans love it: it prolongs the careers of those who can no longer play in the field, allowing them to compile batting statistics unavailable to pre-1973 players.
By all accounts, Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, and Frank Thomas are nice guys. Thomas hit 521 homers, but he hit only 260 of them as a complete ballplayer. Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and Jimmy Foxx all hit more than 500 home runs. When they weren’t hitting homers, they put on a glove and played defense.