Muscle Sport Magazine

First Attempt at NL DH – OTI Baseball 1928

It seems as if it is a foregone conclusion that the National League will adopt the designated hitter, possibly as soon as next season. The MLB Players Association is in favor of it and with the current lockout and deals on the table, it would appear that this is an easy one to give that side in negotiations for the long term. But for baseball purists, this is the final straw in blending the two leagues to the detriment of the game.

Our National Pastime was unique when it comes to the other professional team sports in that it has tried to stick to tradition and keep the two leagues as different as possible. Interleague play put a damper on it but was still a novelty when first introduced, and then evening out the leagues to 15 teams each made it necessary to play at least one of those games every day.

The covid-shortened 2020 60-game season featured the DH in both leagues, but that was a campaign filled with many oddities and this last season, baseball went back to the way it was and should be.

If folks think that pushing for the DH throughout the entire game is something new, think again. For on this day in baseball in 1928, NL president John Heydler proposed at the league meetings to bring in what he called a “tenth regular” to “speed up the game” and that “fans are tired of seeing weak-hitting pitchers come up to bat.”

The idea was floated as far back as 1887 prior to the American League’s existence. But even up until now, there has been enough resistance to not adopt the DH in the NL. The AL has had the DH since 1973.

Babe Ruth is perhaps the best hitting pitcher of all time, so good that he was switched to right field when the New York Yankees acquired him in 1920 to get his bat into the line-up every day. As a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth regularly hit .300 and in his last season in Boston, he hit .322/29/113.

Being more of the exception to the rule, Ruth was way ahead of other hurlers such as Christy Mathewson, the legendary right-hander of the New York Giants. “Matty” hit .215 over a 17-year career, but was far from the automatic out most pitchers are nowadays.

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