500 HRC Stars Shone @ DH Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rednour   
Saturday, 31 October 2009

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 hitters. 

Rafael Palmeiro pounded out 107 homers as a designated hitter, including most of his four-baggers after 1999.

“Mr. 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 the bar.

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 Cleveland.

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.

Eddie 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 position.  

Alex Rodriguez, who hit #500 on August 4, 2007, has only smacked 10 blasts as a DH. 

Rank Player Career HRs DH HRs
1 Barry Bonds 762 9 (in 39 games in AL parks)
2 Hank Aaron 755 22 (Milw Brewers 75-76)
3 Babe Ruth 714 - -
4 Willie Mays 660 - -
5 Ken Griffey, Jr. 630 35  
6 Sammy Sosa 609 25  
7 Frank Robinson 586 58  
8 Mark McGwire 583 6  
9 Alex Rodriguez 583 10  
10 Harmon Killebrew 573 21  
11 Rafael Palmeiro 569 107  
12 Jim Thome 564 159  
13 Reggie Jackson 563 101  
14 Mike Schmidt 548 -  
15 Manny Ramírez 546 69  
16 Mickey Mantle 536    
17 Jimmie Foxx 534    
18 Willie McCovey 521 9 (with Oakland A’s)
  Frank Thomas 521 253  
  Ted Williams 521    
21 Ernie Banks 512    
  Eddie Mathews 512    
23 Mel Ott 511    
24 Gary Sheffield 509 61  
25 Eddie Murray 504 92  

* 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.

< Prev   Next >