The DH Rule has been a part of the American League (AL) for 47 years. Implemented by Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1973, the DH Rule was initially to run a three-year trial period in the AL with the hopes of both leagues adopting the rule for the start of
The DH Rule has been a part of the American League (AL) for 47 years. Implemented by Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1973, the DH Rule was initially to run a three-year trial period in the AL with the hopes of both leagues adopting the rule for the start of the 1976 season. But, the AL was not the first league to use the DH Rule during the regular season. As we have come to witness in Minor League Baseball (MiLB), MLB likes to “test” experimental rules in the lower circuits before bringing them to the Major League level. The Charlotte Knights’ current league, the International League, offered MLB a chance to see the DH in action in 1969.
The International League is MiLB’s oldest running league, since 1884 (when it originated as the Eastern League). The president of the league, George Sisler Jr., and the league’s Tidewater general manager, Dave Rosenfield, worked together to develop a concept and plan on how to use the DH in their league in 1969. George Jr. knew the importance of offense in baseball, his father was one of baseball’s greatest hitters who was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. Rosenfield was asked after the 1969 season why he helped design the DH Rule, “As a baseball purist, which I am, I prefer the game without the designated hitter. But as a general manager, I recognize the bulk of the fans we need to attract like it.” Oddly enough, Rosenfield’s Tidewater Tides finished with the league’s best record, 76-59, in 1969.
In 1976, after the three-year trail using the DH Rule in the AL, league owners found success on the field and at the gates and decided to keep the DH Rule intact for the AL going forward. The NL was still not persuaded by the AL’s demonstration of the extra offensive hitter in the lineup and the senior circuit owners rejected adopting the DH.
With no Interleague play in MLB at the time of the three-year trial, the stark contrast of the DH between the two leagues presented no on-field problems until the postseason. Both leagues initially decided to abandon the DH during the annual World Series. When the American League made the DH Rule permanent in 1976, a solution was reached for World Series play – Odd/Even Play. From 1976-1985, the DH was used by both teams in the World Series on years ending in an “even” number, and DH was not used during the odd numbered years. From 1986-2019, both leagues determined to use the DH during the World Series when the AL was the home team, and let the pitcher bat when the NL was at home. When interleague play was introduced in 1997, the same format as the World Series was used to determine when a DH is used.
However, in 2020, when MLB was facing an interrupted baseball season, the NL decided to adopt the DH for the regular season… 47 years since its first use in the AL. Due to a temporary realignment of both leagues in MLB, and the added offense to bring more excitement to the game, both leagues agreed that universal use of the DH for the 2020 season would help make this season unique and provide added interest for the shortened schedule. The use of the DH in the NL is, for now, temporary. So, in 2021 you may not find the added offense in the NL lineups, but you will continue to find it in the International League and in Uptown Charlotte, where the Knights take full advantage of hitter friendly Truist Field by featuring the DH in every league game. The only time a DH is not used in the International League (and other Minor Leagues) is when both opponents are affiliated with an NL parent club.
1) Who was the first ever DH to hit a home run in a regular season game in the AL? Tony Oliva, who went 2-4 with a HR and three RBI for the Minnesota Twins on April 6, 1973. Oliva also became the first former Charlotte player to play the DH position in MLB.
2) Who was the first player to DH in a regular season game for the Chicago White Sox? Mike Andrews, who knocked one hit in three at bats on April 7, 1973.