Today marks the special anniversary date of one of the most controversial innovations of professional baseball history — the American League Designated Hitter. On April 6, 1973 Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate at Fenway Park against Cuban hurler Luis Tiant as the first official DH (he drew a walk with the bases loaded). Later that same inning Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rico and the Boston Red Sox) was retired in the first officiall credited at-bat by a DH (remember Blomberg had walked). A short time later in the Oakland Coliseum Minnesota’s Tony Oliva smashed the first homer by a DH. Thus two Cubans played significant roles in DH history — Luis Tiant was the first pitcher to face a designated hitter and Tony Oliva was the first DH to knock a ball out of the park (Oliva’s homer coming in the top of the first inning against Catfish Hunter).
Pertfectly timed for the anniversary occasion, my biographical essay on Tony Oliva has just been posted on-line by with SABR BIOGRAPHY PROJECT web site. The Oliva essay not only capsulates Tony’s near hall-of-fame career but also clarifies a few mysteries surrounding such issues as his true birthdate, the full details behind his name switch (he was born as Pedro Oliva), and his actual signing date. The biography is available at the following link:
Another interesting and related read is my earlier SABR BIOGRAPHY PROJECT essay on Pedro Ramos, another Cuban big leaguer recruited out of Pinar del Rio Province by scout Papa Joe Cambria for Clark and Calvin Griffith’s Washington/Minnesota American League franchise. The Pete Ramos biography can also be accessed at the following link:
Happy reading about two of the more significant Cuban imports in major league baseball history.