Year
1973

American League adopts designated hitter rule

On January 11, 1973,the owners of America’s 24 major league baseball teams vote to allow teams in theAmerican League (AL) to use a “designated pinch-hitter” that could bat for the pitcher, while still allowing the pitcher to stay in the game.

The idea of adding a 10th man to the baseball lineup to bat for the pitcher had been suggested as early as 1906 by the revered player and manager Connie Mack. In 1928, John Heydler, then-president of the National League (NL), revived the issue, but the rule was rejected at that point by the AL management. By the early 1970s, Charlie Finley, the colorful owner of the Oakland A’s, had become the designated hitter rule’s most outspoken advocate, arguing that a pinch-hitter to replace the pitcher–a player that usually batted poorly, exceptions like the legendary Babe Ruth notwithstanding–would add the extra offensive punch that baseball needed to draw more fans.

At a joint meeting of the two major leagues in Chicago on January 11, 1973, presided over by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the owners voted to allow the AL (which lagged behind the NL in both scoring and attendance) to put the designated hitter rule into practice. The NL resisted the change, and for the first time in history, the two leagues would play using different rules. In addition, the introduction of the designated hitter (Rule 6.10) marked the biggest rule change in major league baseball since 1903, when it was decided that foul balls would be considered strikes. Though it initially began as a three-year experiment, it would be permanently adopted by the AL and later by most amateur and minor league teams.

On April 6, 1973–Opening Day–Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the league’s first ever designated hitter. In his first plate appearance, he was walked on a full count by the Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. From the beginning, baseball purists decried the designated hitter in bitter, moralistic terms, arguing that it took away from baseball’s integrity. The rift between pro- and anti-designated hitter fans has continued into the present day. At first, the designated hitter rule did not apply to any games in the World Series, in which the AL and NL winners met for the world championship. From 1976-1985, it applied only to Series held in even-numbered years, and in 1986 the current rule took effect, according to which the designated hitter rule is used or not used according to the practice of the home team.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Van der Sloot admits to Peru murder

On this day in 2012, Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, pleads guilty to the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was killed on May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the day ...read more

Miep Gies, who hid Anne Frank, dies at 100

On this day in 2010, Miep Gies, the last survivor of a small group of people who helped hide a Jewish girl, Anne Frank, and her family from the Nazis during World War II, dies at age 100 in the Netherlands. After the Franks were discovered in 1944 and sent to concentration camps, ...read more

Stalin banishes Trotsky

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Bolshevik revolution and early architect of the Soviet state, is deported by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to Alma-Ata in remote Soviet Central Asia. He lived there in internal exile for a year before being banished from the USSR forever by Stalin. ...read more

French forces occupy Corfu

To provide a safe and stable haven for the growing number of refugees pouring out of the devastated Balkan state of Serbia, French forces take formal military control of the Greek island of Corfu on this day in 1916. The northernmost of a string of islands in the Ionian Sea, ...read more

Diem issues Ordinance No. 6

South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem issues Ordinance No. 6, allowing the internment of former Viet Minh members and others “considered as dangerous to national defense and common security.” The Viet Minh was a largely communist organization that overthrew French colonial ...read more

Demonstrations erupt in Saigon and Hue

Major cities–especially Saigon and Hue–and much of central Vietnam are disrupted by demonstrations and strikes led by Buddhists. Refusing to accept any government headed by Tran Van Huong, who they saw as a puppet of the United States, the Buddhists turned against U.S. ...read more

Grand Canyon National Monument is created

Declaring that “The ages had been at work on it, and man can only mar it,” President Theodore Roosevelt designates the mighty Grand Canyon a national monument. Home to Native Americans for centuries, the first European to see the vast brightly colored spectacle of the Grand ...read more

Charlie Chaplin’s assets frozen

On January 11, 1927, Charlie Chaplin’s $16 million estate is frozen by court receivers after his second wife, Lita Grey Chaplin, sues for divorce. Lita was a 16-year-old hopeful actress when the 35-year-old Chaplin married her in 1924. The bitter and prolonged divorce ended a ...read more

Flash flood in Rio

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, more than 10 inches of rain falls in 12 hours on this day in 1966, causing a flash flood. Four hundred people were killed and 50,000 needed to be evacuated due to the sudden influx of water The rains, which were the heaviest to hit the area in more than ...read more

Reagan gives his farewell address

After eight years as president of the United States, Ronald Reagan gives his farewell address to the American people. In his speech, President Reagan spoke with particular enthusiasm about the foreign policy achievements of his administration. In his speech, Reagan declared that ...read more

Violence erupts at GM plant strike

On this day in 1937, nearly two weeks into a sit-down strike by General Motors (GM) auto workers at the Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Michigan, a riot breaks out when police try to prevent the strikers from receiving food deliveries from supporters on the outside. Strikers ...read more

Battle of Arkansas Post

On this day in 1863, Union General John McClernand and Admiral David Porter capture Arkansas Post, a Confederate stronghold on the Arkansas River. The victory secured central Arkansas for the Union and lifted Northern morale just three weeks after the disastrous Battle of ...read more