May 27, 2018

The Debut of the DH

November 21, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Starting in the 1973 season, the American League implemented the designated hitter rule, which allowed a player to hit for another player, which is almost always the pitcher. Here is a look at how the first designated hitters did for their respective American League clubs during opening day of the ’73 season.

April 6th – Boston Red Sox 15, New York Yankees 5 at Fenway Park
NYY DH: Ron Blomberg (1-for-3, RBI, BB; batted sixth)
BOS DH: Orlando Cepeda (0-for-6, 2 K; batted fifth)

When Blomberg stepped up to the plate in the top of the first inning, he became the first player in baseball history to pick up a plate appearance as a designated hitter. He drew a bases loaded walk off Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, which scored the first run of the contest. He also picked up a single in the third inning off Tiant. Future Hall-of-Famer Orlando Cepeda did not have one of his better days at the plate, going 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. The 35-year old Cepeda would rebound after his tough opening day, posting a stat line of .289-20-86 in 142 games as Boston’s full time DH.

Meanwhile, in the game, Carlton Fisk went 3-for-4 with 6 RBIs to power the Red Sox over the Yankees by a score of 15-5. Carl Yastrzemski and Doug Griffin each drove in two runs for the home side, who chased New York starting pitcher Mel Stottlemyre in the third inning. In total, Boston ended up outhitting the Yankees, 20-8.

April 6th – Baltimore Orioles 10, Milwaukee Brewers 0 at Memorial Stadium
MIL DH: Ollie Brown (0-for-3; batted sixth)
BAL DH: Terry Crowley (2-for-4, R; batted eighth)

Crowley, currently the hitting coach for the Orioles, picked up singles in the sixth and seventh innings off Milwaukee reliever Bill Champion. He also scored Baltimore’s eighth run of the game in the sixth when he scored on a Merv Rettenmund single. Brown was shut down in all three of his at-bats against O’s starter Dave McNally. Brown was only one of the six Brewer batters to go hitless against McNally as the Baltimore ace allowed only three hits in his complete-game shutout of Milwaukee. Orioles’ left fielder Don Baylor went 4-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs while Brooks Robinson drove in another 4 runs.

April 6th – California Angels 3, Kansas City Royals 2 at Anaheim Stadium
KCR DH: Ed Kirkpatrick (0-for-3, BB; batted sixth)
CAL DH: Tommy McCraw (1-for-4, K; batted fifth)

The Angels’ Tommy McCraw collected the only hit between the two DHs in the contest, a single to leadoff the fourth inning. Kirkpatrick walked in his first appearance in the second but failed to reach base in his next three at-bats. On a side note, California manager Bobby Winkles removed the DH from his lineup in the ninth inning when he placed McCraw in left field, where he stood as he watched Nolan Ryan go three up and three down as the Angels hung on for a 3-2 victory. The Angels controlled the contest throughout, grabbing a 3-0 lead early and it stayed that way until the eighth, when the Royals brought two runners across the plate to tighten the contest. However, with one final chance in the ninth, Kansas City couldn’t put a runner on base.

April 6th – Minnesota Twins 8, Oakland Athletics 3 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
MIN DH: Tony Oliva (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBIs, BB; batted fourth)
OAK DH: Bill North (2-for-5, batted leadoff)

Tony Oliva became the first designated hitter to hit a home run when he smacked a two-run, two-out dinger off A’s starter Catfish Hunter to give the Twins a quick 3-0 lead. Oliva also drove in Rod Carew with a single in the fourth, allowing him to finish with a strong opening day at the plate. Oakland DH Billy North had a pair of singles off Minnesota starter Bert Blyleven, who went the distance in the victory. The Twins knocked Hunter out in the third after gaining a 5-0 lead and they never looked back on route to a 8-3 win. Twins’ leadoff man Larry Hisle went 4-for-5 with a home run to jump start the offense.

April 7th – Cleveland Indians 2, Detroit Tigers 1 at Cleveland Stadium
DET DH: Gates Brown (0-for-4, K, batted third)
CLE DH: John Ellis (0-for-4, K, batted fourth)

Detroit and Cleveland did not get any production from the designated hitter spot in their debuts with the new lineup rule. To be fair, neither team got a whole lot of offense out of any spot in their lineup, due to pitching performances by the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich and the Indians’ Gaylord Perry, who allowed only four hits apiece. The only runs in the contest came off long balls, with Chris Chambliss giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead in the first and Mickey Stanley giving the Tigers their only run with a solo swat in the eighth.

April 7th – Chicago White Sox 3, Texas Rangers 1 at Arlington Stadium
CWS DH: Mike Andrews (1-for-3, 2B, BB, batted sixth)
TEX DH: Rico Carty (1-for-4, batted fourth)

The two DHs each had one hit in the contest; Andrews doubled in the fifth and Carty singled in the ninth. Chicago starter Wilbur Wood had an exceptional game, going the distance while giving up only four Texas hits, two of which came in the last inning. Nursing a 3-1 lead with two outs in the ninth and runners on the corner, Wood strike out the Rangers’ Jeff Burroughs to end the game and to give the White Sox a 3-1 victory.

April 6th, 1977 – Seattle Mariners: Doug Collins (0-for-4, K, batted leadoff)
April 7th, 1977 – Toronto Blue Jays: Otto Velez (2-for-4, R, BB, K, batted fourth)
March 31st, 1998 – Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Paul Sorrento (1-for-5, K, batted sixth)


One Response to “The Debut of the DH”
  1. Cary says:

    If I added right, that’s 13 for 57 for a .228, which should have stopped the experiment right there. Either get rid of the designated hitter, or expand the rosters and have offense and defense in baseball, where hitting is optional for every defender.

    As far as it being almost always the pitcher, I’m pretty sure the rule reads that only the pitcher can be designated hit for. I’ve been wrong about more important things, but that’s how I remember it.

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