We could see the designated hitter completely take over Major League Baseball shortly.
MLB insider and former general manager Jim Bowden reported on Monday there is a “growing belief” from National League general managers that the DH could be instituted as soon as 2021.
It would be a landmark decision for the National League, which has required pitchers to bat since its inception in 1876 and provide uniformity with the rival American League.
The AL adopted the DH in 1973 following one of the most dominant spells of pitching in league history — especially in 1968. That year, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain won 31 games, St. Louis Cardinals ace and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson posted an MLB-record 1.12 ERA, and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski led the American League with a measly .301 batting average.
While Major League Baseball attempted to combat that by lowering the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10, the American League’s decision to implement the DH full-time altered the game forever.
Attendance boomed, offensive numbers surged, and the AL surpassed the NL in popularity and success. American League teams have won 25 of the past 46 World Series titles while taking 27 of 47 All-Star Games.
But the history of the designated hitter goes back far before its implementation.
Legendary Philadelphia Athletics manager and Baseball Hall of Famer Connie Mack was the first notable name to raise the idea of the DH as early as 1906, citing his displeasure in watching his star pitchers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender (both Hall of Famers) struggle at the plate.
In 1929, NL president John Heydler proposed a DH that would add a 10th name to the lineup card, though it wouldn’t gain enough steam to be experimented with.
Should the NL go through with this decision next year, 15 new, every-day jobs would be added while creating a true level playing field across the majors.
In interleague play and the World Series, DH rules are currently dependent on the home team. If an AL team hosts, both teams were required to put designated hitters in their lineups. If an NL team is home, pitchers must bat.