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Yes, operator, that's the party I want. Hello, Bob? Bob Newhart? Yeah, it's me again—Abner Doubleday. I thought you might remember. It sure has been a long time. Yeah, we sold the game I was telling you about. The one with the pillows, the chalk lines and the guy standing up with the stick in his hands. Merchandised the hell out of the thing. We put it indoors in Houston and outdoors everyplace else. We've drawn about 250 million with it over the last 10 years. The big guy right now is loony about the colors green and gold, and he does a lot of dancing on top of these little buildings we call dugouts. There are 23 fellows who will turn their lights on so the guys can play at night and one who won't, but that's old news. Brother, we did something today that is really going to frost your glass. Half of the teams are now going to play with nine guys and the other half with 10.
"I knew that would make you laugh, Bob. I'll certainly admit it isn't your basic, hard-core merchandising. A customer in the Bronx is going to see a different product than the customer in Queens. People on the North Side of Chicago won't know what the guys on the South Side are talking about. In Los Angeles they already think we are trying to teach an octopus to skip rope.
"Sure, I'll call you back if we do anything else with it. You slapping your knee, Bob? Don't blame you. After 103 years of doing things in a way everybody understood, we are really spinning the old swizzle stick on 'em. You think it sounds like madness, eh? Well, if I'm still around in the middle of October, I'll try to get back to you."
It was just past four o'clock at the Sheraton-O'Hare Motor Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. last Thursday afternoon when major league baseball fessed up to the fact that it was going both mod and mad. Owners and general managers representing every team in the American and National Leagues came streaming out of the Lancaster Room, and each looked as if something dire had been done, something revolutionary, something bizarre. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn told what: the American League was going to run a three-year test on DPH—designated pinch hitter. The National League had said no thanks, not for us.
Oh, the leagues had split before. A dozen years ago, for example, the American League expanded and the National League did not. The American League schedule was 162 games, the National 154. But that was a smallish matter. The acceptance of the designated pinch hitter by the American League and its rejection by the National separate the leagues radically. The DPH permits the American League to play with 10 men on a side while the National League continues to field the hallowed nine, and that is at least half a brand-new ball game, as Madison Avenue might say.
The DPH bats for the pitcher. There is just one reason for his existence: to increase hits and scoring. He never fields and the pitcher never bats. The DPH has come into being because of the prolonged scoring slump in baseball and the fact that, with few exceptions, pitchers are lousy hitters.
The new rule reads in part:
"A pinch hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A designated pinch hitter for the pitcher must be selected prior to the game....
"He shall not take a position in the field nor shall he appear as a pinch runner.
"Pinch hitters for a designated pinch hitter may be used. Any substitute pinch hitter for a designated pinch hitter himself becomes a designated pinch hitter. A replaced designated pinch hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity."