Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Designated Hitter: The Legacy of Racism

"I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter." - Crash Davis in Bull Durham.
The Designated Hitter is wrong for so many reasons familiar to many baseball fans:  It upsets the traditional symmetry of 9 players on a side all of whom field and hit; it eliminates late-inning strategy that is present when the pitcher is in the lineup; it allows players past their prime and one-dimensional players to keep playing.  It is also the product of racism.  The DH rule was adopted by the American League in 1973 (the first DH to bat that year was Yankee Ron Blomberg).  The National League played an exciting brand of baseball encompassing speed, daring and defense exemplified by great African American players of the 50s and 60s, while the American League game was built around lumbering power hitters.  The disparity stemmed from the fact that National League teams, beginning with the Dodgers' signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947, were generally far quicker to accept players of color.  For example, as reported in the Times, the Yankees refused to sign Willie Mays because of his race, and it wasn't until 1959 that the Red Sox signed Pumpsie Green, becoming the last team to sign an African American.  The recalcitrance of American League owners to embrace black and latino ballplayers and their dynamic style of play took its toll so that by the early 1970s, even though both leagues were now fully integrated, the American League game remained rather stale and attendance was down.  The owners' solution:  The Designated Hitter.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Everyone in the world disagrees with me, including some managers, but I think managing in the American League is much more difficult for that very reason (having the designated hitter). In the National League, my situation is dictated for me. If I'm behind in the game, I've got to pinch hit. I've got to take my pitcher out. In the American League, you have to zero in. You have to know exactly when to take them out of there. In the National League, that's done for you." - Jim Leyland

Lovechilde said...

Thanks for the comment. That is an interesting perspective.

juicebox said...

i still don't want to see a pitcher batting, except in softball.

Berkeley TWI said...

pumpsie green was the berkeley high baseball coach when i was in high school

Ethan Corn said...

leave it to the yankees...

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