1973 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The designated hitter was born on this date in 1973. The New York Yankees’ Ron Blomberg became the first major league baseball player to be in the starting lineup without playing in the field. He also became the first DH to reach base and drive in a run as Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox walked him with the bases loaded in the top of the first. Blomberg later singled.
The game changed significantly that day, many believe, for the worse. Hundreds of American League pitchers would go through entire careers without picking up a bat. Hundreds of designated hitters would seldom pick up a glove. The DH has since trickled down to amateur baseball. Many high school and college pitchers don’t bat.
Purists were, and remain, appalled for several reasons, the least of which being, baseball used to be one of the few sports that required every participant be able to do everything with some professional proficiency; run, hit, throw and catch.
Take the National Football League, an offensive tackle can make it to the NFL Hall of Fame without ever throwing a football in a game, or catching one for that matter. Dennis Rodman probably went whole NBA seasons without attempting a 3-pointer, let alone making one.
But supporters of the Designated Hitter say it initiated a re-birth of baseball. Attendance boomed until the players’ strike of 1994, and is on the rise again. Interestingly however, average attendance is higher in the National League, which has never had the DH, than the American League.
- The DH was first suggested by the National League in 1928, but the American League rejected it [see Dec 12 story].