- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
DH Day turned out to be bright, sunny and cold, with Fenway Park temperatures in the 40's and winds gusting up to 30 mph. As Ray Fitzgerald wrote in The Boston Globe the next day, "The game didn't need a designated hitter. It needed a designated meteorologist." The wind played a role in that first American League game of the season when, with two outs and the bases empty, Matty Alou lofted a fly ball that got up in the currents, baffling centerfielder Reggie Smith and falling for a double. Had Smith caught the ball, Boston's Orlando Cepeda might have been the first DH to bat. But Tiant then walked Bobby Murcer and Graig Nettles, and Blomberg was up. "Carlton Fisk was behind the plate," says Blomberg. "I said to him, 'I feel weird.' Then I said, 'What's he throwin'?' And Carlton said, 'He's throwin' it right by you.' "
Tiant did throw it by Blomberg, four balls' worth, and the DH walked to first as Matty Alou walked home with the game's first run. The next batter, Felipe Alou, doubled, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. It looked as if it was going to be a rout, and it was: 15-5. The 15, however, belonged to the Red Sox, who blasted Mel Stottlemyre for eight runs in the first three innings. The then 25-year-old Fisk, who is the only player from that game still active, hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs. The only Boston regular without a hit was the DH, Cepeda.
For his part Blomberg went 1 for 3, with a single and the walk. After the game Yankee public-relations man Marty Appel went down to the clubhouse to get Blomberg's Louisville Slugger in order to send it to the Hall of Fame, where it is still prominently displayed. "We lose 15-5, and all these reporters are asking me questions after the game," says Blomberg. "That's really the first time I sensed that I was part of history."
Indeed, later that day The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite ran a feature on the designated hitter, with David Culhane reporting from Boston and Morton Dean reporting from another game, in Baltimore. Appel, who is now the p.r. director for the '96 Atlanta Olympics, says, "My one regret about that day is not saving the lineup card. I have no idea who has it, or if anybody even bothered to keep it. But I can almost guarantee you, though, that Houk spelled Blomberg as Blumberg and that [shortstop] Gene Michael's last name came out Michaels. Ralph always did that."
Despite the game's historical significance, some of the other participants don't have much to say about DH Day. Says Houk, now 73 and retired in Winter Haven, Fla., "I have a hard time remembering what I ate for breakfast." Tiant, now a minor league pitching instructor, says he can't recall a thing about the game. And Fisk, too, remembers nothing about the game. His wife, Linda, however, did have this to say when told her husband played in the first designated-hitter game: "Ron Blomberg, right?"
DH Trivia Question No. 2 : The father of the designated hitter is:
(a) Connie Mack
Actually, you could make a case for any of them, so the answer is all of the above. Now take a guess as to how far back designated history goes. Fifty years? Sixty years? Try 87 years, or at least 87. The following excerpt is from the article "Why the Pitcher Ought to Bat," which first appeared in the Philadelphia North American and was reprinted in the Feb. 3, 1906, edition of Sporting Life:
The suggestion, often made, that the pitcher be denied a chance to bat, and a substitute player sent up to hit every time, has been brought to life again, and will come up for consideration when the American and National League Committees on rules get together.
This time Connie Mack is credited with having made the suggestion. He argues that a pitcher is usually such a poor hitter that his time at the bat is a farce, and the game would be helped by eliminating him in favor of a better hitter.