08 August 2012

fu dh

[this post, which has been sitting as a draft for a long time in one form or another, has finally been written for round 1 of the nachos grande contest.]

pitchers, at least in the national league, take batting practice.  sure, i suppose that american league pitchers try to figure out which end of the bat to hold on to in the days leading up to interleague games, but for the national league pitchers, an at bat is an every-game occurrence.  here's shawn estes practicing bunting on a 1995 upper deck collector's choice card.
i live in an american league city but grew up in national league territory.  i prefer national league rules.  when i first moved to minny, i promised myself that i would travel once a year (at least) to see national league baseball, and i did - maybe not every year, but most.  i don't care for the dh, even though it allows nice guys like jim thome or personal favorites like mike piazza to extend their careers.  however, with the game becoming so specialized, most pitchers can't hit.  heck, they can't even bunt.  as a result, i am slowly becoming resigned to the inevitability of the dh rule extending to the national league.  with an odd number of teams in each league and the pure idiocy of playing by different rules depending upon which stadium you are in, it just doesn't make sense to have pitchers bat anymore.  when it happens, i will miss the strategy part of the game, and i will miss seeing pitchers as batters on baseball cards.

those things even now are a fairly rare sight, and i know that;s probably why a few bloggers out there collect such cards.  furthermore, i know that pretty much everyone has seen what are (in my opinion) two of the greatest cards to feature hurlers as hitters.  of course i am talking about this 1994 upper deck all time heroes don newcombe
and this 1973 topps jim kaat card.
but did you also know that there was a 1977-79 sportscaster card dedicated to this topic?  it featured a pretty good hitting pitcher, too.  sadly, it featured him delivering a pitch, making the title of the card a bit ambiguous
were the crafty italians suggesting that big d was a good hitter, or that he enjoyed hitting pitchers with his pitches?  the back clarifies that it was the former.
lots of good information there, and not just about newcombe and don drysdale.  those guys didn't need a designated hitter, that's for sure.  it's too bad, however, that there is no mention on the back of that card regarding another dodger pitcher who could swing a mean stick.  i'm referring to that 'fat tub of goo' terry forster.  although not a slugger, forster hit .397 on his career, with 31 hits in 78 at bats.  for the dodgers, however, he was just 4 for 12.  i think i have noted this before, but of all the players to have a better career batting average than ty cobb, it is terry forster who has the most hits.

maybe i am biased, but it seemed to me that the dodgers always had good hitting pitchers.  besides newk and drysdale, there was forster and rick sutcliffe, fernando valenzuela (who is taking a nice cut on his 1990 upper deck card)
and orel hershiser (who hit .356 in 1993).  i remember going to a dodger game with my dad circa 1979, and seeing don sutton get a base hit.  it's actually the only thing i remember vividly from that game, probably because i fixated on how surprised the guy next to me seemed to be at the prospect of a pitcher (or maybe just sutton) stroke a clean single to center.  and then there is what is one of my all-time favorite dodger moments (i wrote about it here) which came during the 1988 season when tim leary pinch hit in an extra-innings game against the giants and drove in the winning run with a base hit.  good times all around.

getting back to cards, here's one of another dodger pitcher taking his hacks - ismael valdes and his 1997 upper deck collector's choice issue
the photo is a mirage of sorts - valdes hit only .088 in '97.

on his 1997 upper deck card, hideo nomo is almost striking a pose in the batter's box.
the text at the bottom tells us that he stroked two doubles in a game during what must have been the 1995 postseason, but the date is wrong.  it wasn't 10/10/95 (the dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs by then), it was 6/9/96, and nomo was 2 for 2 with 2 doubles in a 3-2 win over cincy.  those two hits raised his average to .167.  nomo was not a good hitter, but he took some pretty violent cuts.  every once in a while, he would send a ball on a long journey, even hitting a handful of home runs over the course of his career.

there are other cards of pitchers batting that look halfway decent, like estes' teammate allen watson on his 1997 topps card
and bunting mark buerhle on his 2004 topps card
this card is a 1995 upper deck special edition card of the big unit (he of the .125 career batting average) - a card i sent to a fellow blogger who collects such things.
that just looks awkward.  maybe it won't be a bad thing when pitchers don't hit.  until then, national league hurlers, keep practicing your bunting.  there are some of us out there who still appreciate it.


P-town Tom said...

I like that the rules are different, but I prefer watching baseball without the DH. More strategy in the later innings!

night owl said...

It will be less baseball-like if/when that ever happens.

Nick said...

I'm a big fan of these types of cards as well. I agree with you that the NL switching to the DH at some point is pretty much inevitable, although I really don't want to see it happen.

That #9 spot is where a lot of the strategy comes in during a National League game.

Plus, that would mean no more cards of pitchers at the plate, sadly.

Jason T. Carter said...

My dad talks about Newcombe all the time and how good he was as a hitter.

JT, The Writer's Journey

MrMopar said...

Maybe Randy was facing John Kruk during that AB?

Play at the Plate said...

I kind of flip, flop on this topic, but I would like a standard put in place for both leagues. I think if I had to go in one direction, I would say make them hit.