Calcaterra: The designated hitter is not quited as new-fangled as you think

From Craig Calcaterra at The National Pastime Museum on November 6, 2016:

In January, rumblings arose from the quarterly owners meetings that the National League may, quite possibly, be moving toward adopting the designated hitter. There was nothing certain about it, and Commissioner Rob Manfred quickly issued statements saying that it was not likely. But the chatter constituted more talk about the DH in the senior circuit than had been heard for some time. Predictably, it created something of a furor as only arguments about the designated hitter can. Really: when you meet your significant other’s parents for the first time, avoid topics of religion, politics, and the DH unless you want to make a scene.

We’ve all engaged in arguments about the DH in the past. They tend to be somewhat predictable, with proponents noting how poorly pitchers bat and opponents lamenting the lack of strategy—in terms of bunting, double switching, and the like—that a DH league brings. Proponents talk about progress. Opponents talk about tradition. In this way, maybe the DH, religion, and politics are actually the same thing.


To people over the age of 50, there is still a sense of the DH as something new and gimmicky. But, in fact, it has existed for 43 years. That’s when Charlie O. Finley’s vision was realized, and, after a season in which the American League’s batting average fell to .239. and the American League’s attendance lagged more than two million behind the National League’s, a majority of AL owners decided to green light the DH “experiment,” which had been tried haltingly in the minor leagues for the previous four seasons.

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Originally published: November 7, 2016. Last Updated: November 7, 2016.