Tony Oliva, Mike Cuellar, Luis Tiant and the first year of the DH in the American League

On this day in 1973 or 2 months before players reported to spring training, the American League adopted the “Designated Hitter” effective for the upcoming season.   

In fact, one of the first DH’s was Tony Oliva, who could no longer play the outfield every day but swung the bat with authority: .291 with 16 HR & 92 RBI as a full time DH in 1973. Tony-O followed that with a .285 average in 1974.

The rule benefited starting pitchers because they were not removed from the game by a pinch-hitter. It gave pitchers more decisions and complete games!

For example, Mike Cuellar won 40 and completed 37 in the first two years of the DH

His fellow Cuban Luis Tiant won 81 games and completed 85 in the first four years of the DH.

Nevertheless, the American and National leagues have played with different rules since 1973:   the pitchers hit in the National but a hitter is designated to hit for the pitcher in the American.

In my opinion, it is insane because it changes the way that the game is played. Could you imagine the AFC and NFC playing with different offensive rules?

It’s time to settle the issue and go one way or another.   

The DH is an integral part of winning the AL title, such as happened with Vlad Guerrero and Texas in 2010 or David Ortiz with Boston. It hurts the AL team when they have to adjust their lineup in NL parks in the World Series.

So let’s play by the same rules!

By the way, the aforementioned Luis Tiant of Boston was the first AL pitcher to face a DH or Ron Bloomberg of the Yankees on opening day 1973.  

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Mike Cuellar: 1937 – 2010

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We remember that Oriole great Mike Cuellar died in Florida 8 years ago this week.     He had been ill for a few months.

Mike was the greatest Cuban lefthander.    He was born in 1937 and played for the Havana Sugar Kings before making his debut with Cincinnati in 1959.

All together, he won 185 games, shared the 1969 Cy Young with Denny McClain and pitched a complete game in game 5 to win the 1970 series.

Cuellar was a 20-game winner in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1974. He represented the AL in 4 All Star games.    He finished in the Top 10 of the AL MVP vote in 1969 & 1974.

My favorite Cuellar memory was the 1974 season.  The O’s won 28 of the last 34 and Cuellar was in the middle of it all. At one point, he pitched back to back complete games on 2-days rest.  It was awesome!

Beyond the numbers, he was a family friend and very nice man.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

1967: Tony Perez hit a 15th inning HR to win marathon All Star Game

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It happened 50 years ago in Anaheim, California. Millions watched and saw one of the greatest All Star Game pitching duels ever:

Perez, 25, in his third full season with the Reds, was named the All-Star Game MVP.

The Big Dog rode the bench until the 10th inning, when manager Walt Alston told him to replace Phillies third baseman Dick Allen. Perez struck out against Hunter in the 12th, then belted the game-winner to deep left field with one out in the top of the 15th.

In an oddity, all three runs came on solo homers by third basemen: Dick Allen off the Angels’ Dean Chance in the second; the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson off the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins in the seventh; and Perez. It was the longest game in All-Star history, a mark tied in 2008.

Another Cuban, lefty Mike Cuellar, was representing Houston on the NL roster.

The 1967 rosters included 21 future Hall of Famers: Perez, Seaver, Drysdale, Jenkins, Mazeroski, Hunter, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Joe Torre, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline and Carl Yastrzemski.

It was a great night for Tony Perez of Ciego de Avila.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk), (YouTube) and follow me on Twitter.