A little less 'magic' - What MLB will lose forever as pitchers stop hitting

The universal DH, for all of its uniformity, practicality and Shohei Ohtani, saddens a small few of us, for it eliminates one of the game's underappreciated elements: pitchers hitting, or not hitting, which, for 150 years, has provided great statistics, stories and smiles.

Yes, we still have the amazing Ohtani, but he doesn't count as a hitting pitcher because he's too good, as was Babe Ruth. They are/were two-way players -- as is, on a lower level, the Los Angeles Angels' Michael Lorenzen, who in 2019 became the first player since Ruth in 1921 to hit a homer, get the victory and play the field in the same game. "I have a baseball card with only me and Babe Ruth on it," Lorenzen said. "It doesn't get any cooler than that."

And yes, a pitcher could bat in 2022 if, say, a game goes 18 innings, a team has no position players left, and a position player gets hurt. A pitcher would have to play in the field, or hit. But for the purposes of this story, pitchers will never bat again in the big leagues.

"I'm going to miss it," said New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, who loves hitting and running the bases as much as any pitcher in the game. "It bothers me as much as it should bother me."

"I'm not going to miss it," said Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Morton. "I don't think anyone wants to watch me strike out on three pitches and walk back to the dugout 98 times out of a hundred."

"I was a .088 hitter, and I've always been for pitchers hitting; I love the oddities," said former pitcher Jim Deshaies, now a broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. "Jon Lester was like 0-for-68 when he got here [with the Cubs], then he started to hit. I think pitchers should hit. I think it's good for the game. I mean, the home run by Bartolo [Colon] was magic."

Indeed. In 2016, the overweight, underestimated, unforgettable Colon, at age 42, became the oldest player ever to hit first major league home run, which featured one of the slowest, most joyous trips around the bases in baseball history, and it triggered one of the wildest dugout celebrations we have ever seen. "When we get back to the dugout, it's just me and Bartolo; everyone else is down hiding in the tunnel," said then-Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki, who was on base at the time of the home run. "I didn't know what to do, bear hug him again? And then, everyone comes shooting out of the tunnel. It was unbelievable. Every guy on the team went over and gave him a big hug. It was absolutely nuts."

It was nuts. It was magic. Now that magic is gone.

We will never see it again. We will never see a lot of things again:

  • We will never see a pitcher hit two home runs on Opening Day, as Madison Bumgarner -- the only pitcher ever to do that -- did in 2017. Adrian Beltre hit 477 homers and Johnny Bench hit 389, but neither hit one on Opening Day; Bumgarner hit two on the same Opening Day. The Hall of Fame asked him for his historic bat, but he refused, saying, "I'm a pitcher, not a hitter." Bumgarner also hit two grand slams in his career, giving him as many as Pete Rose and Derek Jeter had in 25,248 at-bats combined.

  • We will never see what Rick Wise did in 1971: He hit two home runs while throwing a no-hitter.

  • We will never see a pitcher steal another base. Wild Bill Donovan's 34 steals are the most in a career by a pitcher since 1900. Red Faber (1915) is the last pitcher to steal three bases in a game. Don Newcombe (1956) is the only pitcher to hit two home runs and steal a base in a game. In the early 1990s, the steal sign for the Pirates was manager Jim Leyland putting a hand on the shoulder of hitting coach Milt May. Leyland once called May over to tell him something during a game and accidentally placed a hand on May's shoulder. Brian Fisher, a pitcher who was on first base, thinking it was the steal sign, took off for second. "He slid and just kind of plugged," said then-Pirates third base coach Rich Donnelly. "When he finished his slide, he was closer to first base than he was to second."

  • We will never see a list of pitchers this glorious. In 2007, Daisuke Matsuzaka joined Cy Young and Babe Ruth as the only Red Sox pitchers to have a multi-RBI game in the postseason. Cy Young, Babe Ruth ... Daisuke Matsuzaka.

  • We will never see a pitcher hit an inside-the-park home run, last done by Butch Henry in 1992. It was the only homer of his career.

"My first RBI of my career came on a bases-loaded walk against David Palmer. He was released about a week after that. I felt responsible for that." Former pitcher Jim Deshaies
  • We will miss the thought process at the plate of Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, who last year had an RBI in five consecutive starts. One teammate said, "Urias can't run at all. In his first at-bat with no one on base, he will pretend that he can't hit a certain pitch, kind of lie in the weeds like Manny Ramirez used to do. Then later in the game, with runners on base, the pitcher thinks he can throw that pitch again because Julio can't hit it, but Julio is ready for it, and knocks in a run."

  • We will never have this conversation in a major league clubhouse: The Nets' Chris Dudley went 1-for-18 from the free throw line in an NBA game in 1990. Padres pitcher Bruce Hurst, a huge basketball fan and a really good shooter but a career .113 hitter, said, "The baseball equivalent would be like going 1-for-300 at the plate ... which would be pretty good for me!"

  • We will never see a career achievement like that of pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, who hit a home run in his first career at-bat, then batted 431 more times without ever hitting another.

  • We will never see anything to match Dennis Tankersley, who, in 2002, recorded his first major league victory and hit his first major league home run in the same game, but he played two more seasons and never won another game and never hit another home run.

  • We will never have another trivia question to rival this one: Who is the last American League switch-hitter to win the MVP? Vida Blue, a pitcher, in 1971.

  • We will never have hilarious relief pitcher Larry Andersen, not a good hitter, explain the season (1988) when he started out 2-for-2 by saying, "If I'm 1-for-1, I'm hitting 1.000, so if I'm 2-for-2, I think I should be hitting 2.000. That way, if I make an out in my next at-bat, my average would only drop to 1.500." Or have hilarious first-base coach Jim Frey (then with the Orioles) tell pitcher Mike Flanagan when he reached first base, "Keep your left foot on the bag, and get as big a lead as you can with your right foot." Or have hilarious former Mets infielder Wally Backman, who wasn't trying to be funny, say when asked whom on the slumping 2021 Mets he would want at the plate in the key situation, "[Jacob] deGrom."

  • We will never have a competition within a pitching staff like the one on the 2021 Brewers. Bench coach Pat Murphy bought a 4-foot-tall wooden statue that was awarded to any Brewers pitcher who drew a walk without swinging his bat. The honorary statue was placed in that pitcher's locker until the next pitcher accomplished the feat. "It's in my locker now," said Brewers pitcher Adrian Houser proudly. "It's very competitive. As soon as it happens, the statue is moved immediately. It might be in my locker forever."

  • We will never get this perspective: Pitcher Storm Davis went 1-for-16 in his major league career. When I asked him if he was a good hitter in high school, he said, "Well, I hit .450 in high school. But everyone hits .450 in high school." No, Storm, not everyone hit .450 in high school.

  • We will never see a Cy Young winner with a higher batting average than the home run champ that year, as happened in 1982 with Steve Carlton (.218) and Dave Kingman (.204).

  • We will never have a pitcher hit a home run off his brother, as Joe Niekro did off Phil Niekro. It was Joe's only home run in 1,165 career plate appearances.

  • We will never have another father-son combination hit a home run as a pitcher. In 2021, the Padres' Ryan Weathers homered. He and his dad, David, joined Jim Bagby Sr. and Bagby Jr., Thornton and Don Lee, Clyde and Jared Wright, and Mel and Todd Stottlemyre. "I was aware of it," Ryan Weathers said. "But my dad hit two, so he gave me a hard time. And now I'll never have a chance to tie him."

  • We will never see a pitcher hit a triple. Walter Johnson is the record holder for pitchers since 1900 with 41. The first four Mets ever to hit a triple as a 40-year-old were -- get this -- Willie Mays, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez and Frank Tanana. The last two were pitchers. They were the only triples they hit in their careers. And Jim Golden in 1962 is the last pitcher for any team to hit two triples in one game.

  • We will never have the discussion again about the curious fact that it is exceptionally rare for a position player to bat right-handed and throw left-handed (Rickey Henderson), but every year, a couple of dozen pitchers (Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy John included) bat right-handed and throw left-handed. Why? Former pitcher Terry Mulholland was a BRTL. He explained, "I should be a left-handed hitter, but I have four older brothers. They all hit right-handed. There's no way my dad was going to teach me to hit left-handed."

  • We will never have another clubhouse scene like this: In 1999, Braves pitcher John Smoltz came racing out of the clubhouse and grabbed a writer (me) and said breathlessly, "I know I have more walks [as a hitter] than any active pitcher. I know I do. You can find stuff like that. Can you find it for me?!" I did. He was right. I told him. "I knew it!" he said.

  • We will never have that moment where a pitcher bats in a major league game having not batted since high school. "Mine came against Lynn McGlothen at Wrigley Field," said former pitcher Ed Lynch. "He threw so hard, I looked down and my shoelaces were on fire." Roger Clemens faced the devastating Dwight Gooden in the 1986 All-Star Game. The first pitch was a fastball at 97 mph. Clemens asked home umpire plate umpire, Bruce Froemming, incredulously, "Do I throw that hard?" Froemming said, "Yes, Roger, you do." It made Clemens a better pitcher because he knew that no one could hit anything thrown that hard.

  • We will never have a pitcher set a record for hitting futility. Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is 0-for-26 in his career, so he will have no shot to break the major league record set by pitcher Randy Tate (1975 Mets) for the most career at-bats (41) without a hit. Reliever Joakim Soria, who has played in 773 games and never taken an at-bat, is now virtually guaranteed to break pitcher Buddy Groom's record of 786 games without an at-bat.

  • We will never have a pitcher join this exclusive club: Zack Greinke, who doesn't talk excitedly about much, said last season that he was so looking forward to hitting his next home run, which would have been No. 10. And now, he won't. It also is unlikely that he'll steal another base, which also would have been No. 10, and would have made him the fifth pitcher (with at least 1,500 innings pitched) since 1900, and first since Bob Gibson, to have 10 career homers and 10 career steals.

  • We will never see a pitcher hit like Wes Ferrell, who hit the most career home runs as a pitcher with 37, 10 more than his brother, Rick, a Hall of Fame catcher. In 1935, Wes Ferrell, then with the Red Sox, hit a pinch-hit, three-run, walk-off home run. The next day, Ferrell hit a walk-off home run to win a game that he started. It would take 70 more years before the Red Sox would win back-to-back games with a walk-off home run.

  • We will never see a pitcher as bad at the plate as Daniel Cabrera. He struck out in his first 17 plate appearances. Then he grounded out to first base against Chris Volstad. On his next at-bat, he drew a walk against Hayden Penn. Cabrera went 0-for-26 with 24 strikeouts and two walks in his career. Pitchers who can't hit still can put pressure on opposing pitchers, though. Jim Deshaies, who had 33 career hits and 12 RBIs in 440 plate appearances, said, "My first RBI of my career came on a bases-loaded walk against David Palmer. He was released about a week after that. I felt responsible for that."

  • We will never see a pitcher hit like Walter Johnson, who has the most hits (547) by a pitcher since 1900. In 1925, Johnson recorded the highest average (.433) by a pitcher in a season of at least 50 at-bats. Johnson had a higher batting average than ERA in 12 seasons, including 10 years in a row.

  • We will never see a pitcher hit like Red Ruffing, who had 521 hits and 36 home runs in his career, as well as a .269 average and a .389 slugging percentage. As a Yankee, four times he pinch hit for future Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey. From 1928 to '32, Ruffing hit .324 in 617 plate appearances, higher than 14 future Hall of Fame position players hit during that time.

  • We will never see a pitcher hit like Jim Tobin, who batted .441 (15-for-34) as a rookie in 1937, On May 13, 1942, Tobin became (and still is) the only pitcher to hit three homers in a game -- David Ortiz, Gary Sheffield and Rafael Palmeiro all hit 500 home runs, yet never hit three in a game. In Tobin's first at-bat on that famous day in 1942, the wind knocked down a fly ball that was caught on the warning track in left field. The day before, Tobin had hit a homer as a pinch hitter in his only at-bat. So, a pitcher nearly hit a home run in five straight at-bats.

  • We will never see a pitcher hit like George Brett's older brother, Ken, who hit a home run in four consecutive starts, a major league record. George always liked to say that Ken was the best hitter in the family. Also, the leading hitter on George Brett's high school team his senior year was Scott McGregor, who would pitch 13 years in the major leagues. "I out-averaged George; I didn't out-hit him," McGregor said. "After I signed [to play pro ball], I was used as a pinch hitter before I ever pitched in a game. I played for Bobby [Cox] for three years in the minor leagues. I was his prime pinch hitter. But George gave me kudos when he was interviewed when he went into the Hall of Fame. He was asked if he was heavily scouted in high school. He said, 'No, everyone was there to see Scott McGregor.'"

"I'm not going to miss it. I don't think anyone wants to watch me strike out on three pitches and walk back to the dugout 98 times out of a hundred."
Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Morton
  • We will never see a pitcher hit like Micah Owings, who still owns the Georgia state high school record for career home runs with 69. He had a career .502 slugging percentage and a .283 batting average in 205 at-bats in the major leagues. In 2007, Owings became the first pitcher since Whitey Ford in 1953 to record two four-hit games in one season. But neither Owings nor Ford had a five-hit game: The last pitcher to record one of those was Mel Stottlemyre, who went 5-for-5 and threw a two-hit shutout against the Senators in 1964.

  • We will never have this wonderful combination of hitting and pitching: The last pitchers to hit .300 in a season (minimum 80 at-bats) in which they won 20 games were Catfish Hunter in 1971 and Bob Gibson in 1970.

  • We will never see this kind of pitcher production again: In 2009, Chris Carpenter drove in six runs in a game while pitching only five innings, joining Robert Person (2002) and Vic Raschi (1953) as the only pitchers in baseball history to have more RBIs than innings pitched in a game.

  • We will never see another pitcher hit a grand slam. In 1966, Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams in one game. And when Jake Westbrook hit a grand slam in 2011, the Cardinals became the first team in history to get a grand slam from a pitcher three years in a row. The last grand slam ever hit by a pitcher was last year by Padres reliever Daniel Camarena, who hit a grand slam off the Nationals' Max Scherzer. Camarena became the third reliever in the past 70 years to hit a grand slam, joining Enrique Romo in 1980 and Don Robinson in 1985. It was the first time Scherzer had ever allowed a home run to a pitcher. It was Camarena's first career hit. He's the first pitcher since 1900 to hit a grand slam for his first hit. "It still doesn't seem real," Camarena said. "It's Disney stuff. I watched the movie 'Rudy' a lot as a kid. I felt like Rudy. I just figured he would blow my doors off, but it wound up like I was hitting a whiffle ball against my brother. If it's the last [grand slam hit by a pitcher], I will hang on to that one forever."

  • We will never have this beautiful stat: Joaquin Andujar pitched 2,153 innings in his career and Gary Peters pitched 2,081 innings, and neither one ever gave up a grand slam. But they each hit one.

  • We will never have another day like May 13, 2021. Braves pitcher Huascar Ynoa hit a grand slam, the second start in a row that he had homered. The same day, in his first at-bats in pro ball, White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease went 3-for-3, meaning he had posted a three-hit game that season before Mookie Betts or DJ LeMahieu (among many other position players). The last time a pitcher hit a grand slam and another pitcher had three hits on the same day (and the pitcher had to pitch that day, not pinch hit) was in 1950 when Erv Palica hit a grand slam and Ned Garver had three hits. Also in 2021, Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman and Braves pitcher Max Fried each had a walk-off RBI. The last season in which two primary pitchers had a walk-off RBI was 1994 with Mike Stanton and Darren Dreifort.

  • We will never have a game like April 16, 2021. In the 12th inning against the Padres, Dodgers pitcher David Price hit a sacrifice fly, the second RBI of his career. The ball was caught by pitcher Joe Musgrove, who had thrown a no-hitter seven days earlier. Musgrove had to play left field when second baseman Jake Cronenworth was brought in to pitch. It marked the first time that a pitcher hit a ball to a position-playing pitcher since Sept. 30, 1984, when Shane Rawley flied out to left fielder Don Robinson in the third inning. It was the last game of the season and Robinson, a good-hitting pitcher, started in left field. "For so long, I wanted an opportunity to play in the field -- I always keep my spikes on in case I have to pinch hit, pinch run or play a position," Musgrove said. "When I got to left field, the lights were so much brighter than I thought they'd be, it wasn't like shagging fly balls at 5 o'clock during BP. Then, with our second baseman pitching, a pitcher hit a fly ball to me. I would have been so mad if I wasn't ready for that."

  • We will never see a pitcher used as the DH. In 1988, Yankees manager Billy Martin used pitcher Rick Rhoden as his DH in a game against the Orioles. Rhoden batted seventh in the order, ahead of shortstop Rafael Santana and catcher Joel Skinner, who were not pleased that they were hitting behind the pitcher, nor were the position players who started the game on the bench. "He was my best option today," Martin said. Rhoden hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Back then, he was credited with the game-winning RBI.

  • We will never have the end of a hitting career quite like that of Max Scherzer. He is a good hitter for a pitcher -- a career .168 batting average with one homer, 30 RBIs and three stolen bases with none caught stealing. But last year, in his final season that he got to hit, he went 0-for-59. The only players in major league history to have a worse hitless season are, you guessed it, pitchers: Bob Buhl, who went 0-for-62 in 1962, and Bill Wright, who went 0-for-61 in 1950.

    "It drives me crazy to end that way," Scherzer said, who said he won't ask Mets manager Buck Showalter to let him pinch hit to potentially end his 0-for-59 streak. "Look, I enjoyed hitting, but I've got my home run, I've got my stolen bases, I've got my RBIs. So, I'm good."