In May of 1973, the Dick Conley Club of West Roxbury and the Supreme Saints faced off in the Boston Park League opener. But this was no opener to take sitting down.
On this particular Monday night at Roslindale’s Fallon Field, the Park League introduced the designated hitter to sandlot baseball. Dick Paster didn’t get to play the field this day. But his at bats were historic.
The American League of Major League Baseball introduced the designated hitter rule (Rule 6.10) in 1973. The rule allows teams to have one player bat in place of the pitcher.
According to Wikipedia, “The designated hitter idea was raised by Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack in 1906, though he was not the first to propose it. The rumors were that he grew weary of watching Eddie Plank and Charles Bender flail at pitches when at bat. Mack’s proposal received little support and was even lambasted by the press as wrong theoretically. The notion did not die. In the late 1920s, National League president John Heydler made a number of attempts to introduce a 10th man designated hitter as a way to speed up the game, and almost convinced National League clubs to agree to try it during spring training in 1929.”
And then 44 years later in 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball history, in Boston, facing Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant in his first plate appearance. Blomberg was walked. Orlando Cepeda DH’d for the Sox, stepping into the box shortly thereafter.
About a month later, Dick Paster became the first amateur baseball player to become a designated hitter, playing for Supreme, in the Boston Park League. Dennis Hebner DH’d for Conley.
“I will toot my horn on the DH subject,” Paster said proudly.
“Bob Cusick, the Park League president at the time, asked me to be the first DH that year. CBS got wind of the story, contacted me and set up interviews and followed me around with a camera all day.”
But there was a game to be played.
“My first time up, I got down in the count 0-2, but I got a base hit to avoid an embarrassing at bat. As I recall, we had a pretty good crowd.”
For Dick, it really was a remarkable experience.
“I met sportswriter Hale Bruhn at Fallon Field and he interviewed me. The three local networks all had TV coverage at the game, and I was on the News at 11 on every station.”
The glory didn’t stop there.
“The story appeared again on CBS on Sunday. This time, they did a comparison between my day and Orlando Cepeda – the DH in the game for the Red Sox. We may have been only a few miles, but light years apart in Boston.”
What did not appear in any of the stories at the time was that Dick had been a designated hitter on occasion in the minors when with the Greenville Red Sox in the Western Carolinas League in 1968, and with the Jamestown Falcons in the New York-Penn League in 1969.
“They were experimenting with the DH in some of the leagues before it was enacted in the Majors. I never liked being DH. I did not feel like I was in the game.”
In 1991, Paster was selected into the Boston Park League Hall of Fame for his performance as player/manager of the Supreme Saints.
Today, Paster is hard hitting lawyer, practicing in Quincy, Mass.