I knew the upcoming baseball season was going to be the 40th Anniversary of the very first use of the designated hitter (DH) in the American League, but I didn't know the actual date of approval by owners was today, January 11th, 1973.
Thanks to Bill League Stew on Yahoo Sports for the article on the DH today.
By a vote of 8-4, the 12 American League owners adopted the rule that allowed a player to hit in the batting order without playing a position on the field, and in doing so, allowed the pitcher to not have to bat.
The Yankees Ron Blomberg became the first DH on opening day, April 6th, 1973.
I remember watching the 1976 World Series when the Reds Dan Driessen became the first ever National League DH, against the Yankees.
Game 1 of the '76 World Series was the first time the DH was used in a National League ballpark.
Driessen hit .357 in the series, with a homer as the Reds swept the Bronx Bombers.
As the 1972 season came to an end, many A.L. teams were losing money, and they had a lot of aging ball players who were nearing retirement, and teams were afraid of fans not coming to games when the old stars hung up their uniforms for the last time.
For my fellow Detroit Tigers fans the honor of being the first every DH for our team belongs to Gates Brown, the Tigers best ever pinch hitter.
The DH has been very controversial for all 40 years, led by baseball purists, and National League teams, players, and fans.
To me the DH is never been a problem, probably because the Tigers were an original A.L. team, and those were the games I was watching every day as a young fan.
The DH has become part of baseball, and I think that eventually the N.L. will have to institute the DH as well, simply because it gives another bat into the line up every night.
I know, the tradition of the double switch, which really never made much sense to me, will be gone, but I think managers will be just fine.
As I think about the DH, and it's place in baseball history, I have to talk about Edgar Martinez, and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
No pure DH has ever been elected into the Hall.
That fact needs to change, and the change needs to start with Martinez, the best pure DH in baseball history.
Matrinez had a lifetime .312 batting average, 2247 hits, 309 HRs, 1261 RBI, and scored 1219 runs.
The DH is part of baseball history, and the Hall of Fame is a place that showcases the history of baseball.
Besides Martinez, David Ortiz, who has the most DH home runs, 401, has to become a HOF player as well.
Paul Molitor, already in the HOF, played a great deal of his time as a DH as well. and there are guys like Don Baylor, Harold Baines, who could one day be enshrined in the DH wing of the HOF.
So, Happy 40th to the DH, oh, and many more.