We Don’t Need a Stinkin’ DH
by Mike Whiteman
October 13, 2021
Many pundits say that the negotiations of the next MLB Collective Bargain Agreement between the owners and players will result in a universal designated hitter, with the National League adding the DH and bringing consistency to rules between the leagues.
It’s almost universal already, having gained a foothold in the minor leagues and in college play. It is used prevalently in the international game and has even reached the high school and American Legion levels in some sort.
I mourn the loss of the hitting pitcher. I’ve enjoyed watching pitchers who brought value to their team from the batter’s box. It adds a unique situational element to the game. Pitchers who could be utilized as pinch hitters/runners enhanced a team’s depth and flexibility.
Like many fans, I really enjoyed watching Shohei Ohtani’s historical 2021 season. A pitcher need not be a generational talent like Ohtani to impact a game though. There have been plenty of pitchers who were assets at the plate.
It has been almost fifty years since Yankee pitcher hit regularly, but their history was dotted with several accomplished pitchers who could help themselves at the plate.
Carl Mays – In 1921 Mays batted .343 in 156 appearances. This in addition to leading the American in wins (27), innings pitched (336.2) and (retroactively) in saves (7). Over his four-plus years as a Yankee he hit .279.
Bullet Joe Bush– Bush had a short but productive tenure as a Yankee, winning 62 games in his three-year stint between 1922-1924. He supported himself at the plate as well, batting .313 in 353 plate appearances.
Red Ruffing – One of the best hitting pitchers of all time. The future Hall of Famer was acquired from Boston in a trade on May 6, 1930. He proceeded to -slash .374/.415/.596 with four home runs in 106 plate appearances. Such his prowess that he pinch-hit eighteen times. He followed that up with a .330/.336/.505 season in 1931. Adding in some time in Boston, Ruffing batted .324 with 14 home runs and 89 RBI in 578 at bats from 1928-1932. He led AL pitchers in home runs in 1930 (4) and 1936 (5). His 36 career homers trail only Wes Ferrell (38) and Bob Lemon (37) in career home runs for pitchers. For his career, Ruffing was utilized as a pinch hitter frequently, tallying 58 hits and a .258 average.
Don Larsen – Over his five-year Yankee career, Larsen smacked eight home runs, with a high of four in 1958, when he also batted .306.
Tommy Byrne – Byrne had three HR in both 1956 and in 1957. He was utilized by Casey Stengel as a pinch-hitter 36 times from 1954-1957.
Rick Rhoden – Rhoden serves a somewhat of an “honorable mention”. He won the Silver Slugger award three years in a row prior to his acquisition by the Yankees in 1987. Due to the DH, his hitting talent went to waste in New York, though Billy Martin utilized Rhoden as DH on June 11, 1988. Batting seventh, he drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.
I acknowledge that I’m a bit “old school” on the issue, and my viewpoint may not be shared by all. What do YOU think about the DH rule?