The DH: Connie Mack's Other White Elephant

Billy MulliganContributor IOctober 5, 2008

In 1901, John McGraw of the New York Giants called the Philadelphia Athletics "a white elephant nobody wanted." Connie Mack, on the other hand, saw the team as an opportunity. He took the job and put the white elephant on his players' sleeves.

Unfortunately, he took the gag one step further, and in 1906, he had an epiphany—the designated hitter. 

Mack was convinced that since pitchers were traditionally weak hitters, a substitute batter in the lineup would make the game more exciting. I'm sure the fact that Connie did not have a pitcher who hit more than .252 (with at least 20 at-bats) between the 1905 and 1906 season had little to do with his revolutionary idea.

Fortunately for us all, less than a decade later, a young pitcher for the Boston Braves by the name of Babe Ruth would enter the league. He put most of the DH rumbling to rest for a while.

It was not until the late '60s when pitchers began to dominate the league that the DH elephant began to raise its ugly trunk again, and in 1973, the American league was changed forever.

I know the arguments for the DH and some are valid, but maybe it's the kid in me. I remember growing up in Philadelphia and playing on the street, or if we were lucky on a field, and everyone batted. Some of the best hitters we had were pitchers.

The argument that the game is more exciting with a DH doesn't fly with me. Look at the second game of NLDS between the Phillies and the Brewers. CC Sabathia, who switched leagues this year and can hit, had a great duel with opposing pitcher Brett Myers.

An encounter that had the crowd on its feet all three times. Not bad for a guy with a .116 batting average. 

Just once I'd like to see an American league team play a division game, put the pitcher in the nine spot and say, "I'm going to beat you the old fashioned way." 

It would be reminiscent of the 1990 Foreman vs. Clooney fight in which George refused to sit, take out his mouth piece, or drink water, and Foreman knocked him out in the second round.

Bring back the old grit!

Sports can no longer cater to individual positions or players. If you want to be a big-league ball player and get paid big bucks—pick up the bat, step to the plate, and take your cuts just like everyone else.

If they are not willing to do that, we might as well bring back the golf carts to carry the prima donnas out and expose them for what they really are—a side show and a joke. 

And in my book, we can put a white elephant on their sleeve—they've earned it.