brewers baseball and things

sympathy for the designated hitter

6 Comments

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.

passage

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

harold baines; DH master

Harold Baines; DH Gold

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.


Endnotes

(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/

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

6 thoughts on “sympathy for the designated hitter

  1. Two comments. The first is interesting, the second is boring.

    When I first saw the title I honestly thought it said ‘designated hitler’ – the guy who is picked on to stand there, for a time, with a stick-on moustache.

    There is no cricket equivalent. Everyone has to bat (unless one side manages to pass the total score of the other, with wickets in hand). This gives a distinctive flavour to the endgame of an innings, when the specialist bowlers are at the crease. Sometimes they are easy to dismiss; at other times they can prove very stubborn; sometimes they can, with panache, score runs quickly and even put victory beyond the opposition’s reach. But there is something organic about the process. I guess, in that respect, cricket is closer to NL baseball than to AL.

    Here’s Stuart Broad batting. He’s a specialist bowler and comes in to bat towards the bottom of the order. But he is also a very competent left-handed batsman in his own right – not quite an ‘all-rounder’ but someone who can score. The two strokes we see in this clip – the first sent to the off boundary for four, the second to the leg for six – are played as well as any top order batsman would play them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvyagKy1j5g

    Please enlighten me as to what in tarnation hitting ‘a fly ball for the third out’ means.

    • hitler woulda probably been a second baseman due to his short size, but certainly crazier things have happened. i think his place would be in the national league preaching that folk brand of superiority. babies and their bottles.

      the 2 Broad clips are just that…..broad. that first one as the announcer says is “well played” but maybe even more, it is well placed.
      and the second…what a moon shot!

      a fly ball for the third out in baseball is one way to make the last out of an inning.
      9 innings, 3 outs per inning, 27 outs, game over.
      there is one exception, but we’ll leave that for another time.

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