The New York Yankees are going to be the answer to TWO designated hitter trivia questions come the end of next week: which team was the first to send a designated hitter to the plate (way back in 1973, when the AL implemented the rule), and who was the opponent for the first National League team to use a DH in their home park in the universal DH era (come next Thursday in D.C.).
The Washington Nationals still have 10 days to figure out who will be the National League's first-ever universal DH, but we’ve known for 47 years the answer to the question of who the AL’s first was: former Yankee Ron Blomberg, who joined Sweeny Murti & Ed Coleman on WFAN Sunday night to discuss that memory.
“I thought I was basically a designated pinch-hitter, and I never, ever thought it was going to last,” Blomberg said. “Look at it now – 47 years later, it’s universal in both leagues. I screwed up the game of baseball!”
On April 6, 1973, when the Yankees visited the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Blomberg was the first player ever to take a plate appearance as a DH, drawing a bases-loaded walk against Luis Tiant. A famous moment, but one that Blomberg recalled was the result of necessity in more ways than one.
“People don’t realize I was a first baseman; the only reason I was the DH is because I had a hamstring pull a few days before we broke camp,” Blomberg said. “Everybody thought it was a big joke, and I had to hit for Mel Stottlemyre, who was a great-hitting pitcher. But these pitchers nowadays, you might as well call in the 0-for-4, only a few of them can really hit.”
Blomberg was the No. 6 hitter for the Yankees that day, and became the first DH in part because Tiant allowed three straight runners to reach with two outs, bringing up Blomberg’s slot. Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was Blomberg’s counterpart for Boston that day, so it could’ve just as easily been Cepeda that became the answer to the trivia question.
“I always talk to Orlando and say he got in the Hall of Fame in the front door, and I had to get in by the back door!” Blomberg joked. “But it’s fun to go up to Cooperstown and see my bat up there – they can never take that away from me.”
Regardless, Blomberg’s name is in the books (and his bat is in the Hall), and in 10 days, one member of the Washington Nationals will join him as the first DH ever used in an NL park in the universal DH era. But that’s okay with Ron, who has another first in mind.
“The next time I go back to Old-Timers’ Day, I’m going to be the first guy ever in the game of baseball to come up to bat, swing, and use a Hoveround to run to first base!” he laughed.
You can check out Blomberg’s full interview with Sweeny & Eddie C below.