It’s probably going to take some very weird circumstances for us to ever see a pitcher hit again. While the Yankees obviously have been playing with the designated hitter for decades now, there were still interleague and World Series games over the years where we had to see pitchers don helmets and step to the plate.
However, with the National League adding it for the 2022 season and beyond, those days are probably over. It would take some sort of injury catastrophe and/or extremely long game for the Yankees or any team to send a non-Shohei Ohtani/other freak of nature two-way player up to hit.
As someone raised on post-DH American League baseball, that is perfectly fine with me. That being said, it will mean that we’ll miss out on moments like what Allie Reynolds did in one 1952 game.
On July 12, 1952, the Yankees gave the start to Reynolds as they hosted the St. Louis Browns at Yankee Stadium. While it was still early in the season, the Yankees went into the game with a 2.5-game lead in the AL, hoping to pick up a win against the seventh-place Browns.
After Reynolds threw a scoreless first inning, he got into some trouble in the second. With Clint Courtney on after a single, Reynolds made an error on a fielder’s choice, likely keeping the frame alive on what could’ve been an inning-ending double play. That came back to haunt him when Marty Marion hit a three-run homer.
The Yankees would eventually begin to cut into that deficit, but not before the Browns had made it 4-0 on a Bobby Young home run. However in the third and fourth innings, Yogi Berra and Gene Woodling hit a two-run homer each, allowing the Yankees to tie things up. Woodling’s knocked Browns’ starter Stubby Overmire out of the game as St. Louis turned to a 45-year-old Satchel Paige. After that, the two pitchers started exchanging zeroes, but they didn’t come without some scares.
Reynolds allowed a runner to reach in both the fourth and fifth innings, but he seemed destined to allow a run in the sixth. The first two Browns’ hitters in the sixth reached, and then a wild pitch had them both in scoring position with still nobody out in the inning. Reynolds managed to get three outs after that, but the first ended up coming on a fielder’s choice out at home to keep the game tied.
Reynolds’ run of needing to get out of trouble continued in the seventh and eighth when he worked around lead off singles in both innings. The eighth because especially eventful, thanks to reasons not entirely to do with Reynolds. With one out in the eighth, Courtney was on first for the Browns. On one particular pitch, Berra turned around to disagree with a call, leading to Courtney taking off for second. Berra quickly noticed and fired the ball to Billy Martin. The Yankees’ second baseman got the ball and applied the tag to Courtney, which got the runner right on the face. Courtney took exception to that and ran after Martin, who — seemingly always up for a fight — hit the Browns’ catcher right in the jaw with a punch. The two of them went at it for a bit before being separated. In a truly “this wouldn’t happen in modern times” moment, only Courtney was ejected.
After all of that settled down, the game drifted off into extra inning, where Reynolds continued to put runners on only to get out the inning. That continued into the 11th, where he worked around a one out walk. That set the stage for the bottom half of the inning.
Berra led off the 11th and singled. After Mickey Mantle couldn’t do anything, Gil McDougald managed to get on after his bunt left the Browns with no play. Woodling then singled to load the bases, but a pinch-hitting Johnny Mize popped one up for the second out. That left the inning up to the pitcher’s spot and Reynolds. On the very first pitch he saw, he drove one over the head of center fielder Jim Rivera. It went down as a single, as it scored Berra to give the Yankees a 5-4, 11-inning win.
For many reasons, it’s unlikely anything like this will happen in a Yankee game ever again. For one, allowing four runs in the first four innings like Reynolds did might doom a lot of pitchers to an early exit. Even if a team elects to let their started battle through that, they’re unlikely to let them pitch well into extra innings. Plus on top of all of that, the Yankees had several chances to potentially pinch-hit for Reynolds, who wasn’t an especially great hitter, even grading him on a curve for pitchers. His last at-bat had come in the bottom of the ninth, which seems like it would’ve been a pretty good opportunity for a pinch-hitter. Thankfully, they didn’t, as we got a very funny occurrence because of it.
New York Times; July 13, 1952