Baseball prides itself on continuity. The distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate has always been sixty feet six inches. There have been some changes like the height of the actual mound, but nothing like the monstrosity that stepped up to bat during an otherwise routine opening day at Fenway Park.
We’re talking April 6, 1973. Ron Blomberg walked in the top of the first inning. Nothing out of the ordinary. Thurmon Munson then hit a fly ball for the third out.(1) The Yankees grabbed their leather and jogged to their respective positions, but not Blomberg. He had no position other than riding pine on the bench. For the first time in baseball, the letters DH for designated hitter were scribbled next to a player’s name. The half breed caged beast DH was unfurled and richter scales still tremor.
Connie Mack proposed replacing the typically weaker hitting pitcher with a DH way back in 1906 (2), but it was shot down like all other successive attempts until 1973. The soft core civil war was on and it still rages a nice bonfire with both leagues enjoying their own identity.
An American League DH can sleep off a hangover during a game. All he has to do is walk about 30 feet to home plate and stand there, four or five times per game. He might even smash the game winning home run. This reality continues to piss off National League fans who insist their style of play is “truer” and “purer” because pitchers in the National League bat like they’re supposed to.
They say the DH is lazy and nothing but a batting cage dummy and may be the ruin of baseball. The National League manufactures runs the old fashioned way; with speed, bunts, timely pinch hitters,and double switches and blah blah, blah, this is all probably true, but
The DH has no outlet for distraction like a fielder does. His solstice is limited to bat only, so what does he do? Pace over his most recent failure in dugout shadows? chew another bag of sunflower seeds? burn the shoelaces of a young rookie? all of the above? He is the master of killing time and his sniper eyes are always pinned on the pitcher in preparation for the next encounter. Samurai.
(1) Baseball Reference, http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS197304060.shtml
(2) Sports Illustrated, “Distinguished History by Steve Wulf, April 5, 1993 http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_online/flashback/1993/distinguished_history/