In a strange way, the new rule may be of special benefit to the Orioles. Baltimore's excellent starting staff pitched 62 complete games in 1972. "I think that if the rule had been in effect then," Weaver says, "we would have had 100 complete games. Very often Mike Cuellar or Pat Dobson would give up a run early and then get stronger as he went along. The fact that we didn't score much often meant that the starter had to come out when he was behind 2-1 or 1-0; we had to try to get a run. Now the pitcher will not have to come out in such circumstances." Overnight Baltimore gains a big plus.
"Since the rule is new nobody knows exactly how it will work out," Weaver continues. "I think you might use a player with 10 or 12 years of experience as your designated hitter—one who is slow in the field or maybe has a sore arm. That way you wouldn't lose his bat when you would normally take him out for a defensive replacement in the game. It may be possible to carry fewer pitchers. Instead of 11 or so you might need less. Still, if you play a Saturday game and have to come back with a doubleheader on Sunday, and you get pretty well chewed up in that Saturday game, you are going to use a lot of pitchers anyway."
Elements of baseball that have been treasured by purists are going to undergo some drastic changes. A good-hitting pitcher like Terry Forster of the White Sox (.463 over his first two seasons in the majors) would appear to be penalized, though a really good-hitting pitcher could be declared a designated hitter for a poor-hitting pitcher. Forget about applauding the starting pitcher when he comes to bat late in the game. He won't be coming to bat. He will have to get his hand as he goes to or from the mound. The stalling of the lead-off man before he steps into the batter's box so that the pitcher can get a breather in the dugout after his batting chore will also be a thing of the past. And that tedious business of whether the pitcher is or is not going to wear his jacket in those rare instances when he reaches first base will blessedly be abandoned. Best of all, the game's dreariest dead moment—the reliever's ride from the bullpen to the mound—will occur far less frequently.
Retaliation against a pitcher who throws at hitters is another fascinating matter that will need some thought. How to accomplish it? A man can show a ton of courage if he is able to knock hitters down without fear of finding something stuck in his own ear.
The Angels could be one of the teams most helped by the rule. In 1972 they compiled a set of remarkably frustrating statistics. California actually outhit Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore, but was the worst in the majors at scoring runs. Bob Oliver led the Angels with 70 runs batted in (in 134 games, after being traded from Kansas City), but nobody else had as many as 50.
"Speaking from a selfish point of view," says Angel General Manager Harry Dalton, "I like the rule. When Frank Robinson feels up to working only half a day, he could be our designated hitter. So could Oliver or Vada Pinson. I do not see the designated hitter always hitting in the nine hole. Far from it. I can see him in the three, four and five spots, too. And the fans are going to do a lot of guessing about who the designated hitters are going to be."
Absolutely. It seems the American League has said something very important to the National: "It's time for a change, and we are going our own way." Right now, three very big men in baseball are standing on a hilltop with skis on. Their names are Bowie Kuhn, who backed the play; Joe Cronin, whose American League will reap the harvest or the whirlwind; and Chub Feeney, the president of a National League that chose to stand fast. In early April they all start down the hill. It is going to be some kind of ride.