In an exhibition game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twin Larry Hisle becomes the first designated hitter in ML history. Hisle makes the new AL rule look good by collecting 2 HR’s and 7 RBI.
The story on why Hisle became the first DH is interesting in itself. The first Spring Training game in the AL in 1973 fell to the Twins. But Minnesota had plans for the recently acquired Cardinals prospect Hisle in the outfield, and he was penciled in as the center fielder as camp got under way. At least, until the morning of the first game, when Hisle injured his toe after tripping over a chair while horsing around with his son. Twins skipper Frank Quilici still wanted to get his new player some swings so he decided to leave him in the lineup at this newfangled DH spot. And while there had been designated “pinch” hitters used in Spring Training games as a trial since 1969, this was the first time a player batted as a DH under the new rule.
When the 1973 season began, 34 year-old Tony Oliva was the Twins primary DH and started 138 games in that role. Larry Hisle as it turns out didn’t appear in a big league regular season game as a DH until July 18, 1975.
Baseball’s 10th man – Pioneer or Pigeon is a interesting write-up on the DH from the Saturday Evening Post July/August 1973 edition that is worth your read.