Love it or hate it, you’ve gotta admit the Designated Hitter Rule has created a tremendous amount of thunder and lightning in American League and inter-league games played in AL stadiums. Since MLB’s American League voted to allow its teams to use a “designated pinch hitter” in place of the pitcher starting in 1973, the practice has 1) boosted the excitement of games and 2) added years to the careers of veteran players who could still strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, but found it difficult to play a defensive position.
Arguably the greatest designated hitter of all time was two-time
League MVP and longtime Chicago White Sox Frank Thomas. Known as “The
Big Hurt” for his enormous size and the hurtin’ he could put on a
baseball, Thomas hit his 244th home run as a DH on June 17, 2007, while
playing north of the border as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Big
Frank eventually set the all-time DH dinger mark of 253 dingers after
returning to his first team The Oakland A’s.
Replacing Thomas as DH
on Chicago’s south side was another large guy, “Big Jim” Thome. And to
prove that US Cellular Field was a perfect breeding ground for DH
sluggers, Thome proceeded to hit 159 homers as a designated hitter with
The White Sox to take second spot on the 500HRC list of DH power
Rafael Palmeiro pounded out 107 homers as a designated hitter, including most of his four-baggers after 1999.
October” Reggie Jackson was the prototypical DH, anchoring the middle
part of the batting order for Championship teams from both coasts for
15 seasons (1973-87). Reggie hit 101 of his 563 home runs as a
designated hitter, which was the most by any of the members of the 500
Home Run Club for many years before Palmeiro, Thome and Thomas raised
Frank Robinson was the first member of the 500 Home
Run Club to hit a homer as a designated hitter. He spent most of the
1973 season as a DH for the Angels and hit his first at that position
(and the 524th of his career) on April 18, 1973. Robinson smacked 58
homers as a DH, including many while serving as a playing manager in
Other 500 Home Run Club members who played games as a
DH in the 1970s include Hank Aaron, who moved to the American League
after setting the career record in 1974. He played two seasons in the
AL and hit all 22 homers in that league as a DH.
Harmon Killebrew hit 21 as the DH from late 1973 through the end of his career in 1975.
Murray hit the first 12 homers of his career in 1977 as a designated
hitter and most of his blasts towards the end of his career at that
Alex Rodriguez, who hit #500 on August 4, 2007, has only smacked 10 blasts as a DH.
||(in 39 games in AL parks) |
||(Milw Brewers 75-76)|
||Ken Griffey, Jr.
||(with Oakland A’s)|
* Source: David Vincent, The Sultan of Swat Stats
Designated Hitter Home Run Fun Facts:
• Rafael Palmeiro is the only DH to win a Gold Glove Award (despite playing only 28 games at first base, 1999)
• Ron Blomberg became the first DH in major league history when on April 6, 1973 at Fenway Park, he was walked by Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant in his first plate appearance of the game.
• Tony Oliva became the first DH to hit a home run playing for the Minnesota Twins on April 6, 1973.