The American League adopted the Designated Hitter (DH) rule in 1973. Of course, card collectors had to wait for the 1974 set to find cards with the players’ positions “designated” as DH. So, who was the first player to have a card solely labeling him a DH?
The answer is card number 83 in the numerical sequence, the Red Sox Orlando Cepeda. At this point in Cepeda’s career, the DH rule was a godsend. The veteran slugger’s knees would no longer allow him to play in the field. Interestingly, Topps would us “Des.” Hitter as the abbreviation for the position.
Several other gimpy, veteran sluggers show up as Des. Hitters: Tommy Davis , Jim Ray Hart, Tony Oliva, Deron Johnson and “Swingin’” Gates Brown.
Topps produced several cards where the position is a hybrid of DH and either 1B or OF. Sometimes the DH appears first, other times last. I thought this might correlate to the number of games played at each position, but this is not the case. The placement is entirely random. Topps would also toss a curve ball by labeling Harmon Killebrew as a First Base-DH.
The players who have DH-1B as a position are Ron Blomberg—the first player to come to the plate as a DH—and Tony Muser.
The only 1B-DH combo belongs to Gail Hopkins.
Players whose cards show them as DH-OF are Frank Robinson, Bob Coluccio and Alex Johnson, and the ones as OF-DH are Carlos May and Hal McRae.
Mike Lahoud was one of the Brewers DHs along with Ollie Brown. Both players were traded to the Angels prior to 1974. Lahoud’s card mentions his DH position on the back only.
Oscar Gamble was Cleveland’s main DH in 1973, but his card only lists outfield. However, his 1974 Topps stamp includes DH as a position.
I will let you get back to hitting balls off the tee under the stands to keep warm between at bats. I’m sure this DH thing is just a passing fad. Soon you will be flashing leather on the field as God and Abner Doubleday intended.