It is incredible to think that one of the biggest debates in baseball — whether or not the NL would begin use of a designated hitter — was essentially decided because one man decided to go fishing.
In August of 1980, after a coalition of owners and general managers had come together, the then-12 NL teams sat down for a meeting with one purpose, that being to vote on whether or not the league would adopt the DH as the AL had a few years prior. They needed a simple majority, seven votes, and many believed they had it at the time.
Philadelphia Phillies GM and now team president Bill Giles was instructed by owner Ruly Carpenter to vote yes, as it seemed to be in the team’s best interest at the time. But when he found out the DH wouldn’t take into effect until two years later in 1982, Giles was torn on how he should vote.
So he tried to reach Carpenter, but he couldn’t because the man had gone fishing.
Unsure of what to do, Giles abstained from voting, which was the same as voting no. Instructed by his owner to do the same as the Phillies did, the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates also abstained.
When the votes were tallied, the final was four yes’, five no’s and three abstentions. The leader of the coalition, the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals, was fired five days later and the NL has never once again voted on whether or not they should adopt the DH in the 33 years since.
Now in 2013, a year in which David Ortiz has etched his own name into the history books as the best DH to ever play the game, the Phillies should be grateful that Carpenter was fishing, leading to the NL not having the DH.
While the team may have been able to benefit from the use of a DH at times, there is no guarantee that having this player would have helped the Phillies win additional titles. In fact, there is good reason to believe that without a hitting pitcher, the Phillies may not have even made it to the World Series in 2008.
Just for good measure, lets revisit the now famous at-bat by pitcher Brett Myers off of one of the best aces in the game at that time, C.C. Sabathia.
Myers had no business making contact with a single pitch thrown by Sabathia, but he did. Incredibly, he fouled off ball after ball after ball until finally with the count 3-2, Myers worked out the most improbable walk, loading the bases and setting the stage for Shane Victorino‘s grand slam.
You can’t know for certain if a DH would have been able to do the same thing or if they would have even gotten on base. Baseball is not a game of hypotheticals. All you do know is that Myers’ walk led to Victorino’s grand slam, and led to the Phillies being able to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS and move on to the World Series.
Had the NL had a DH, none of that may have happened. Instead of celebrating Philadelphia’s first championship in 28 years and only the second baseball title, fans would have been left with the fading memory of the 1980 team from the same year that Giles ultimately altered the course of baseball history.
And without the use of a DH, that team still managed to win the franchise’s first-ever championship.
So whether for better or worse, the Phillies seem to have lucked out.