This Week in Baseball History: The First DH

March 6, 1973

Hisle.jpg

The much maligned designated hitter rule got off to a powerful start in 1973.

The Twins’ Larry Hisle became the first designated hitter in major league history when he filled that spot against the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exhibition game in Orlando, FL.

The historical moment, however, was almost put on hold.

The Pirates were under the impression that the DH would only be used in games involving two American League teams. Pittsburgh manager Bill Virdon protested, but ultimately gave in due to the fact that the DH rule had been advertised for the game.

Hisle made the most of his hitting opportunities, launching two homeruns, including a grand slam. All told, he ended the day with seven RBI’s.

Hisle’s thoughts on batting without fielding: “It felt kind of weird sitting in the dugout while my teammates were on defense. I killed a lot of time by drinking a lot of water at the cooler and studying the Pittsburgh pitchers. I don’t think I’d like the job fulltime since I enjoy defense almost as much as hitting.”

Hisle got his wish; he did not DH in a regular season game until 1975. By the time he ended his final season in 1982, Hisle had played 135 games as a DH.

Sources:

AP “Designated hitter rule a hit: Hisle drives in 7 runs” Los Angeles Times: March 7, 1973. Accessed via ProQuest

Strauss, Michael “People in sports: scoko opening for the DH” New York Times: March 7, 1973. Accessed via ProQuest

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