Player's Who Can Hit and Pitch

Player's Who Can Hit and Pitch

Player's Who Can Hit and Pitch

The Miami Marlins controversial pitcher Carlos Zambrano reminded all of us yesterday that we do have pitchers in baseball that still know how to hit. Zambrano's solo blast off the Phillie's Joe Blanton put him into a seventh place-tie with former Cardinal star pitcher Bob Gibson and John Clarkson, who pitched in the big leagues from 1882-1894, on the all-time list for most home runs by a pitcher with 24. In the seventh, Zambrano also dropped down a beautiful bunt that he beat out for a base hit. Big league pitchers just don't hit any more. Certainly not in the American League since the introduction of baseball's "Designated Hitter." The DH rule changed dramatically the way baseball's played in the American League. I'm not a supporter of the DH rule. The DH rule was adopted by the American League in 1973. It's enabled many slugger's who otherwise would have been retired from the game to stay around in a DH role adding extra years to playing career's. When baseball was trying to decide about adopting the rule in 1973 I called one of the games greatest hitters, Hall of Fame member Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers. During our radio interview Greenberg said, "Bill Veeck and I suggested the idea years ago (1950's) as a way to get one more good hitter in the lineup but it was rejected. We thought it would attract more fans to games. Now they want to adopt it just for the American League, "heck", that's what's wrong with the game today. The Lords of Baseball can't even agree on a simple thing like a "designated hitter!" Of course "BOTH LEAGUES SHOULD ADOPT THE DH RULE!"...One of the games greatest hitters thought it was "DUMB" to have just one league adopt the rule.

It's the year 2012, and we still have one league with the DH ruling. 

After yesterday's game Zambrano told reporter's, "here in the National League, you have to be able to bunt, run, and hit, and I take that seriously. Anytime I'm on the mound, I feel like a pitcher. But when I'm in the box, I feel like a hitter." By the way, Zambrano pitched seven and a half innings, allowing just one run on four hits. The final score, 5-1, and the win put the Miami Marlins in a virtual tie for first place with the Washington Nationals, only a few percentage points behind. 

MLB has had pitchers who could hit. The greatest hitter of course, Babe Ruth. He's never considered in the line-up of hitting pitchers because his heroics after leaving the mound over-shadowed anything he ever did on the mound. With the Boston Red Sox from 1915-1918, he won 78 games as the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. In Boston, Ruth was twice among the top 10 in pitching and hitting categories for a single season: 1915 (wins;homers) and 1918 (ERA-home runs- everything). The next year he was in a Yankee pin-stripe uniform where he made baseball history and earned the label, "Baseball's Greatest Player," the "KING OF SWAT." With the Yankees, Ruth only pitched 31 innings over the remainder of his baseball career. 

Other pitchers could swing the bat pretty well, but none like Babe Ruth. Wes Ferrell who pitched 14 big league seasons with a half dozen teams (1927-1941) hit 38 home runs - Cleveland's Bob Lemon (1941-1958) hit 37 - baseball's 6th most winning pitcher in MLB history, the Braves Warren Spahn (1942-1965) hit 35 - and the Red Sox/Yankee great Red Ruffing,(1924-1947) hit 34 home runs. 

Few players ever made the transition from pitching to full time position player. Babe Ruth being the stand-out exception. Will we ever have in MLB another "Babe Ruth" phenom? I doubt it. Will the National League ever adopt the DH rule? If they haven't done it by now I doubt they ever will. If it doesn't put extra money in owner pockets why change? Money brings about change in our modern-day pro sports. Nothing else. Meanwhile lets just enjoy watching the "unusual" - player's who can hit and pitch a rare treat in today's game.

Larry Upton

"Upton on Sports"-source: miamiherald/sportsillustrated/



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By Larry Upton
Tuesday, 5 Jun 2012


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